Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Looking forward from Group A after Day 5

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Group A “Power” Rankings

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

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.