1. Russia – Pushed by Poland in a game they could have very well lost, Russia remains the best team in Group A. As threatening as Poland was, Russia still controlled how the game was played, even if Poland generated all the good open play chances.
2. Poland – Tuesday’s result was less about Russia coming back to earth than Poland playing (closer) to their potential. Against a Czech defense that got a pass against Greece (after being taken apart by Russia), Poland has a viable path to the quarterfinals.
3. Czech Republic – Given how bad Greece was, it’s hard to know how good the Czechs are. The potential loss of Tomas Rosicky will hurt, as the team may have to find a way to augment their wide play against a Poland team more defensively sound on the flanks. They only need a draw to go through, so while Poland appears to be a better team, the odds may be in the Czech Republic’s favor.
4. Greece – They still have a chance to go through, but a Saturday match against Russia presents a series of unfavorable matchups. As captain Giorgos Karagounis pinged the ball around the field in the second half against the Czech Republic, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for a highly decorated international forced to deal with another major tournament disappointment. (Don’t feel too sorry for him; he was a part of the team that won Euro 2004.)
Crystal Ball: What Need to Happen Next Round
Group D resumes play Saturday, with both matches kicking off simultaneously
Czech Republic vs. Poland
On Tuesday, Poland showed their last 60 minutes versus Greece were out of character. Call it nerves or inexperience or whether you want. Going blow-for-blow with the Russians showed their true quality.
It’s better than we’ve seen from the Czechs, even though the Czech Republic got three points from Greece (where Poland got one). Likely to be second-best in midfield while having their strength wide neutralized, the Czechs are finally going to have to answer their questions up top. How do they get something out of the striker position, where Milan Baros has been invisible? And what do they do behind the striker if Tomas Rosicky can’t go?
If you’re Poland, you have to assume that if you play your game (and play to your potential), you’ll go through. The Czech Republic’s defense was terrible versus Russia and untested versus Greece. You have to think you can take them.
Greece vs. Russia
Greece’s left side has been consistently exploited. Unless they make major changes, Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Anyukov are going to have big days. When Andrei Arshavin comes in from the left, Greece will be outnumbered in midfield, and with Avraam Papadopoulos out, they’ll be shorthanded in defense.
Even if they figured all that out, they have to find a way to win, which means solving their issues going forward. Goalkeeper errors have given them their two goals, and Vyacheslav Malafeev has been one of the tournament’s best `keepers.
Russia gets through with a draw, but they know they’ll avoid Germany (presumably) with a win. That’s incentive enough to avoid drawing.
They also have a question to answer at forward. Aleksandr Kerzhakov has been effective when acting like a false nine, but his inability to convert on Friday and Russia’s lack of chances on Tuesday will give Dick Advocaat pause.
Saturday may serve as a final chance for Kerzhakov. Advocaat may loathe the idea of 90 minutes of Pavlyuchenko, and he won’t want to break up the synergy another Zenit player provides. Still, if he doesn’t have an impact against Greece, the scales my tip against Kerzhakov.
PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings
There’s no movement in out top eight today. Russia still showed enough to keep from falling, while Poland, for however much promise they’ve showed, has yet to take full points.
1. Germany (-)
2. Spain (-)
3. Italy (-)
4. Russia (-)
5. France (-)
6. Croatia (-)
7. Denmark (-)
8. England (-)
… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist
1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine
3. Mario Mandzukic, Czech Republic
4. Andres Iniesta, Spain
5. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
6. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
7. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
8. Jakub Blaszczykowski, Poland
9. Simon Poulsen, Denmark
10. Vyacheslav Malafeev, Russia
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