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Euro 2012 Day 5: Rosicky Injury And Arshavin Influence

The second round of games in the group stages commenced yesterday. After the mauling by Russia in their first game, Tomas Rosicky’s Czech Republic needed to produce a far better performance against Greece to stand any chance of making the quarter finals – and they did just that.

Two goals in the opening 5 minutes put them firmly in the driving seat. In the third minute, Hubschman’s precise through ball found the run of Jiracek from the right and he finished clinically while Rosicky was involved in the second when he slid a delightful pass to the overlapping Gebre-Selassie who’s cut back was bundled over by Pilar.

Rosicky completed 97% of passes

In fact, Tomas was influential throughout the first half, orchestrating the Czech opera from his preferred role behind the striker. His incredible pass completion rate is suggestive of his team’s control over proceedings in the first half. Of course, they made it harder for themselves later as Petr Cech gifted a goal to the Greeks.

There was no Rosicky at the start of the second period though. He picked up an Achilles injury and as he said himself, could barely walk after the first 20 minutes. It’s a big blow for Michal Bilek’s side because they don’t have a player even half as good as Rosicky on the bench. His replacement in the second half, Daniel Kolar confirmed this as he struggled to get involved in the action and retain the ball.

It’s also a worry for Arsenal. We all know what happened with Thomas Vermaelen’s Achilles tendinopathy in 2010. What was expected to be a couple of weeks on the sidelines turned out to be a major enough problem for Vermaelen to miss almost the entire season. Hopefully, it is only a strain and Tomas is back quickly – it would be cruel if he was to suffer another setback just as he’s rediscovering his best form.

The other match between Russia and hosts Poland produced one good goal and one fantastic goal. The first was created by Andrey Arshavin, his curled free kick met by young Alan Dzagoev who scored his third goal of the competition. If Russia make it to the later stages of the tournament, Dzagoev could end up a Golden Boot winner.

The other goal was an absolute scorcher from the left foot of Polish captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, quite easily the goal of the tournament so far. Unlike in the first game against Greece when they squandered a man-advantage and a goal-advantage, Poland were much more compact in midfield and dangerous in the second half when the Russians began to tire.

Russia has the second-highest average age of all squads in the championship, marginally ahead of Ireland. As good a counter-attacking unit as they are, they will find it difficult against more mobile, younger teams in the tournament in the later stages of matches. Still, it’s only four more games to win the cup – with a bit of mental fortitude, they can certainly haul themselves over the line – impossible is nothing.

The match showed the conditions Andrey Arshavin excels in and the ones where he’s less effective. In the first half, Poland left gaps between their lines and Arshavin found space to run at defenders or pick his teammates who were doing the same. In the second half, especially after Poland got their equalizer, those spaces disappeared as the home team compressed defense and midfield. This led to Arshavin being forced down the flank and while he did manage to hit a couple of good crosses, he was not as dangerous as when he was cutting inside in the first half.

Group A is still wide open. Poland will be favorites to go through if Rosicky is unable to recover. Greece are at the bottom of the pile so they will have to take the initiative and that will play into Russia’s hand. Poland and Russia should feel reasonably confident of their chances.

Big game today as Germany and Holland meet in Group B. Like Lukas Podolski, there’s talk that Robin van Persie could start on the left wing with Huntelaar in the middle. Normally, both teams would be happy to settle for a draw but the Dutch don’t have that luxury any more and Germany will fancy their chances on the counter attack.

I can see both Arsenal strikers scoring from the inside left channel, with Podolski’s goal coming from a fast break. My score prediction is 2-2.

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