Euro 2012 Day 9: Rosicky Through, Szczesny And Arshavin Return Home
The final round of matches got underway yesterday and both results were surprising. My picks from Group A were Russia and Poland and both these teams are on their way home this morning – the Russians having to travel a slightly longer distance than the Poles. So much for armchair punditry.
The Czechs were without the creative influence of our Little Mozart, who is still sidelined with injury. Wojciech Szczesny was eligible for the match but coach Smuda decided to keep faith in Tyton, who had done nothing wrong since he was brought on to save that penalty against Greece.
Poland were favorites to get a result and the hosts started quite well, as they have done throughout this tournament. They chased balls down aggressively in the opening 15 minutes and won possession in midfield, pushing the Czechs firmly on the back foot. Unfortunately, they were not able to convert all this early superiority into goals.
Another thing they didn’t do too well was to keep hold of the ball. Their enthusiasm to go forward meant they allowed the Czechs back in the game by turning over the ball often. If the Poles had been more patient in their build up play, they could have piled more pressure on their opponents while not tiring themselves out. Just like the Czechs yesterday, the Poles also missed a genuine playmaker in midfield to pull the strings.
The Czechs improved after the first 30 minutes and were definitely the better team in the second period. With Rosicky missing in midfield, they used the wide men Pilar and Jiracek well. And it was Jiracek who scored the winner from a quick counter attack. Vaclav Pilar was again impressive out on the left, continuing his good form in the tournament with another fine performance. I feel the 23-year old resembled a younger more energetic Andrey Arshavin.
Speaking of Arshavin, Russia produced a very Arsenal-like performance against Greece – plenty of possession, fantastic link up play, lots of missed chances. The Russians took 31 shots but only 2 of these tested the keeper – the same number that Greece managed from far fewer shots (8). In the end, Greece out one in the back of the net and Russia did not.
I have nothing against Greece’s style of play and they were quite positive throughout the match. But I do feel for the Russians because they were one of the more exciting teams in the competition. Their midfield of Denisov, Shirokov and Zyryanov (today Glushakov) showed a great understanding and Dzagoev was a revelation on the right. Arshavin himself looked better than he has for some time now.
But when your central striker has 14 attempts in 3 games and is unable to direct a single shot on target, you really are asking for trouble. Kerzkhakov’s wastefulness came back to bite the Russians.
Today’s matches could produce more drama, with all four teams still capable of qualifying for the next round. Such is the nature of the competition that the Dutch can still go through if they beat Portugal by 2 goals and Germany beat Denmark. On the other hand, current tournament favorites Germany could face a shock exit if they lose to Denmark and Portugal beat the Netherlands.
I think Portugal will fancy their chances against the poor Dutch defense, Nani should get plenty of joy against left-back Jetro Willems, who besides being inexperienced seems to lack the pace one would normally associate with a player in that position. Their 3-man midfield of Veloso, Mereiles and Moutinho will try to frustrate the misfiring Dutch front line even more.
Whereas my head says Germany and Portugal will go through, my heart wants Robin van Persie in the competition. I will go with my heart, 3-1 to Holland and 1-0 to Germany.