The already prejudged Group of Meh, delivered one of the first major shocks of Euro 2012. In a dramatic finale, Group A was turned on its head in the final round of fixtures.
Russia: It is not how you start, it is how you finish…
Russia and tournament co-hosts Poland were the favourites to go through even as the final round of games kicked off. Russia had an emphatic 4-1 win over Czech Republic but failed to take their chances against both Poland and Greece. Many believed that Russia would run away with this group, particularly after that 4-1 win, some, including this blog, tipping them as potential dark horses for the tournament. Alan Dzagoev and Andrei Arshavin impressed, but Dick Advocaat’s side paid the price for his refusal to change things up front. Aleksandr Kerzhakov had 14 attempts on goal but didn’t manage a single shot on target in the three games he started.
Could Greece do it again?
4 points – a win, a draw and a defeat. Sound familiar? Déjà vu from Greece as they progressed to the knock-out stages with the exact amount out points they did when they won the European Championship in 2004, in exactly the same position – 2nd in their group, scoring just 3 goals in 3 games. Greece’s victory over Russia was their first at the European Championship since beating Portugal in the 2004 final. The Greeks look likely to face Germany in the quarter-finals *insert bailout/Euro joke here* Can they win it again?
After Czech Republic were emphatically beaten by Russia, 4-1 many considered them to be out of contention for qualification, but two wins over Greece and Poland, shows that it is not how you start it is how you finish that is important. The Czechs are the first team to win a European Championship group with a negative goal-difference. As they won Group A with a goal-difference of -1. Could we be seeing the Czech’s of 2004 that reached the semi-finals?
The Polish left POL-axed!
There is a certain air of expectation that comes with being hosts and co-hosts of a major tournament and it is unfortunate that Poland have not qualified for the knockout stages. Euro 2008 was their very first European Championship, where they also exited at the group stages but with just one point. Players like Borussia Dortmund duo Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski lit up the tournament with the goals against Greece and Russia respectively. Many will be saddened to see Poland depart, but they certainly put on a show. Austria and Switzerland both failed to make it through the group stages four years ago, and it certainly looks the same way this time around for both Poland and Ukraine.