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Szczesny, Rosicky And Arshavin Set To Star As Euro 2012 Kicks Off

For three weeks, the focus of football fans will be firmly fixated on the goings-on in Poland and Ukraine. Whether you are supporting your national team or following Arsenal players, there are some fascinating match-ups in prospect during the first round of games.

Will Spain prevail again?

Kicking it off today, Wojciech Szczesny’s Poland take on Greece in Warsaw while Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin square off against each other later on as the Czech Republic take on Russia in Wroclaw. Here’s a quick preview of both games, emphasis being on the Gunners involved.

Poland v Greece

Wojciech Szczesny will look to continue Poland’s recent defensive solidity and help the home team get off to a good start. The Poles haven’t conceded a goal in the four friendlies leading up to the tournament and they have also kept a clean sheet in their last three meetings with Greece.

Both teams play variants of the 4-3-3 formation with emphasis on keeping things tight in midfield and not allowing opponents space to attack, while the offensive strategy is based on quick counters. To that extent, and considering that Poland might be a little nervous starting off the tournament, the opener could turn out to be a cagey yet absorbing contest.

Szczesny seems to have recovered well from his shoulder troubles. He looked assured in Poland’s 4-0 victory over Andorra, although the quality of the opposition meant he was not really tested. Chances in this match are likely to be few and far between for both teams, so Wojciech has to ensure he keeps focused through long periods of inactivity.

Poland have the slight edge with home support behind them. The understanding between the Dortmund trio of Piszczek, Blaszczykowski and Lewandowski will be important for their chances and a goal might be created from the right flank where two of those three players will link up.

Prediction: Poland to win 1-0


Czech Republic v Russia

In Wroclaw, the Czechs and Russian will try to take the initiative in the group as the winner will be virtually assured of a place in the next round. On the other hand, losing will make the task extremely difficult with matches against strong defensive sides still to come.

Both Gunners involved in this match are crucial members of their sides, both captains of their respective teams. Andrey Arshavin will play on the left of the central striker as the single most important creative element in Dick Advocaat’s 4-3-3 formation. At the other end, the Czechs are entirely reliant on Tomas Rosicky’s role as playmaker behind the front three.

For Russia, Arshavin may be more of a goal-scoring threat if Kerzhakov plays as the central striker. Unlike Pavlyuchenko and Pogrebnyak, Kerzhakov drifts around a lot and takes defenders with him, which would allow Arshavin space to get in behind the Czechs. But as Arsenal fans know only too well, it is not always certain which Andrey will turn up on match day – the Russians will be hoping it’s a focused and motivated Arshavin rather than the sometimes seemingly lethargic and lazy one.

Tomas Rosicky is returning from a minor calf injury and the Czech Republic’s chances rest heavily on their captain’s shoulder. I worry a little for our Little Mozart as he looked off the pace in the Norwich and West Brom games. At 31, Tomas will struggle to complete 90 minutes. I think we’ll see Rosicky being quite influential in the first half but that may trail off as the game wears on.

Overall, I think Russia have better quality and Shirokov’s late runs into the box could prove to be the difference. An early goal would open things up and make for an exciting game.

Prediction: Russia to win 2-1

Enjoy the games wherever you are watching. Until tomorrow.

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