Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

10 Young Players to watch out for at Euro 2012 (Part 1)

Kevin Strootman

Country: Netherlands

Club: PSV

Age: 22

Position: Midfielder

Known for his box-to-box displays and combative nature, PSV’s Kevin Strootman has attracted a lot of interest across Europe including Ac Milan where he is wanted to replace fellow countryman Mark Van Bommel in the defensive midfielder role. He is currently battling with Nigel De Jong for a place in the first team in the Dutch squad. A good tournament for the 22 year old midfielder could see him moving away from the Phillips Stadion this Summer.

Alan Dzagoev

Country: Russia

Club: CSKA Moscow

Age: 21

Position: Attacking Midfielder

The young Russian scored twice in Russia’s opening game against Czech Republic as they went on to win 4-1. He will be a key player for Russia if they are expected to go far. He was influential for CSKA in last seasons Champions League as they made to the round of 16, recording more key passes per game than Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas. With an eye for goal and able to pick out a pass with pinpoint accuracy it is safe to say that Alan Dzagoev will terrorise opposing defenders this Summer.

Robert Lewandowski 

Country: Poland

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Age: 23

Position: Striker

Many people are familiar with the Polish striker now after yet another successful Bundesliga campaign netting 22 goals for the reigning German champions. Poland’s hopes rest on Lewandowski’s shoulders and he did not disappoint as he scored the opening goal of Euro 2012 in their 1-1 draw with Greece. At the age of 23 he has already made 43 appearances for his country, bagging himself 15 goals in the process. Manchester United are apparently very interested in signing the striker and will be keeping a close eye on him at the Euro’s.

Mario Gotze

Country: Germany

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Age: 20

Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger

Despite being hit with a hip injury Gotze was still a  key player in Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga winning squad this season scoring 6 goals in just 17 games. He will more than likely not start for Germany but could prove to be trouble for fatigued defenders if brought on from the bench, turning them inside out with his blistering pace and creative play. We could well see a future star folding in front of our eyes at Euro 2012 if Mario Gotze gets the game time.

Christian Eriksen

Country: Denmark

Club: Ajax

Age: 20

Position: Midfielder

At only 20 years of age Eriksen has already made 24 appearances for Denmark and featured in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Dane’s skilful dribbling has helped Ajax lift the Eredivise two seasons in a row (2010-11, 2011-12) and due to his fine form he was awarded ‘Danish footballer of the year’ and ‘Young Player in The Netherlands’ in 2011. Denmark will be relying on Eriksen to try guide them through the “Group of death” and into the quarter finals. If Eriksen lives up to the hype at the Euro’s then he will more than likely be leaving Ajax for bigger and better things.

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Euro 2012 – Group A

Group A is looked at as the weakest group in the European Championships but it’s also extremely well matched. The group contains c0-hosts Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Greece. There isn’t much separating these sides and any of the four teams could find themselves in the quarter-finals.

Poland

European Championship record: 2008 Group Stage

World Ranking: 65th

The co-hosts Poland only played in one European Championship prior to Euro 2012 where they finished bottom of their group with only one point.  They will get the tournament under way against Greece on June 8th in Warsaw. Bar a few exceptions the Polish team isn’t really filled with well known players. However playing in front of their own passionate supporters will motivate them and could prove to be the deciding factor of Poland’s progression to the quarter-finals.

Key Players:

Wojciech Szczesny 

Poland is known for producing talented keepers and Arsenal’s Szczesny is no exception. With only nine international caps to his name he isn’t the most experienced player but he is arguably Poland’s most influential nonetheless. His form has kept fellow Arsenal team-mate, Fabianksi out of the first team. Although he is only 22 Szczesny is very confident between the sticks and trusts his defenders completely.

Robert Lewandowski

Despite only being 23, Lewandowski has 40 caps for his country already. He has helped lead Borussia Dortmund to their second successive Bundesliga title after scoring 22 goals for the German side. He will more than likely be played as a lone striker. The nations hopes seemed to be on Lewandowski and if he is on form he will be a real threat for defenders this Summer.

Greece

European Championship record: 1980 Group Stage, 2004 Winners, 2008 Group Stage.

World Ranking: 14th

Greece shocked the footballing world in 2004 as they became champions of Europe having beaten Portugal in the final in Lisbon. However in 2008 they didn’t pick up a single point. Now eight years on from their triumph what should we expect from Greece? It’s hard to tell but they remained unbeaten in the qualifiers in a group that contained Croatia, so they will be confident going into the European Championships.

Key Players:

Giorgos Karagounis

A vital part of the team that won Euro 2004, despite missing the final through suspension. Karagounis remains the captain following the 2010 World Cup and was arguably the most influential player during qualification for Euro 2012. At the tender age of 35 Karagounis is the second most capped Greek player ever on 115 and will hope to break the record at this Summers European Championships.

Avraam Papadopoulos

The Australian born centre back was the rock in the Greek defence and is a huge reason why Greece only conceded five times in qualifying. He was voted the Greek Player of the Year in 2011 and will hope to bring that form into Euro 2012.  He could well be a key reason if Greece are to make it out of the group.

Russia

European Championship Record: 1960 Winners, 1964 Runners-Up, 1968 Fourth, 1972 Runners-Up, 1988 Runners-Up, 1992 Group Stage, 1996 Group Stage, 2004 Group Stage, 2008 Semi-Final.

World Ranking: 11th

Russia are many people’s favourites to top the group and progress to the knock-out stage. They only lost once in qualifying (vs Slovakia) and conceded just four times in ten games. A win against Czech Republic in the first game is vital because both Poland and Greece will be tough for the Russians. Russia were the surprise package at Euro 2008 going to the semi-finals knocking out the Netherlands along the way.

Key Players:

Andrey Arshavin

Despite being loaned out by Arsenal to Zenit after numerous lacklustre performances he still remains a key figure for Russia. Arshavin captained his side throughout the qualifiers. It appears that he may have found some form again grabbing 3 goals in 10 games for Zenit so far. There is no doubt about it that Arshavin was a key figure in the Euro 2008 Russian side and put in two great performances to get them to the semi’s. Dick Advocaat could well get the best out of Arshavin again just like he did at Zenit when the lifted the Uefa Cup in 2008.

Alan Dzagoev

The 21 year old is looked at as the next big thing of Russian football. He has been putting in dazzling displays for CSKA Moscow since 2008. He was Russia’s top scorer in qualifying along with Roman Pavlyuchenko on four goals. Dzagoev outfoxed many defenders in this seasons Champions League and will be hoping to do the same at the Euro’s.

Czech Republic

European Championship Record: 1960 Third, 1976 Winners, 1980 Third, 1996 Runners-Up, 2000 Group Stage, 2004 Semi-finals, 2008 Group Stage.

World Ranking: 26th

The Czech’s are very proud of their European Championship record, having won it in 1976 (as Czechoslovakia) and sent a team to every finals since it got it’s independence in 1993. Although they don’t appear to be as solid as they once were. In qualifying they lost three times in only eight games, although two of them losses came against World & European Champions Spain. The other was a home loss to Lithuania. They qualified after beating Montenegro 3-0 on aggregate in the play-offs. Can they scrape through?

Key Players:

Petr Cech

The Chelsea shot stopper is one of Czech Republics most experienced players after making 89 appearances for his country. Cech has been in form this season for Chelsea helping them to the Champions League final and will hoping to lead by example at Euro 2012 to help put his nation through to the quarter-finals. Cech feels like he needs to make up for his blunder at Euro 2008 when he let a cross slip through his hands which allowed Turkey’s Nihat to score and ultimately eliminated the Czech Republic.

Michal Kadlec

He was the only Czech player to play every single minute of the qualifiers which instantly shows his importance to the team. Despite being a defender he scored four of Czech Republic’s twelve goals. Three of which came from the spot. He is clearly an attacking threat as well as being a solid defender. His father led Czech Republic to the final at Euro 96 so Michal will be hoping to somewhat follow in his fathers footsteps this Summer.

Final Verdict:

Russia to top the group and Poland to finish second in front of their home crowd.