Skip to content

Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Group A’s second round memories, team of the day, and lessons

Jun 12, 2012, 7:58 PM EST

source: Getty Images

How we’ll remember …

Czech Republic 2, Greece 1 - As another reminder that Greece just aren’t that good, and we still can’t quite figure out what happened in 2004. Their second half recovery against Poland tricked us. Today they gave the tournament’s worst performance, going down two goals within the first six minutes. Their only consolation was Petr Cech’s second half gift, but in a Czech uniform, he gives one to everybody. Cech’s obligatory donation leaves a flattering scoreline.

Poland 1, Russia 1 – One of the tournament’s best-played games defuses a tinder box packed with Russian nationalism and Polish reaction. Thousands of Russia supports took to the streets of Warsaw to demonstrate on Russia Day (celebrating the country’s independence). Counter “demonstrations” saw hundreds arrested. Despite a potentially incendiary banner of great and unusual size being unfurled at the National Stadium, the action stayed on the field, with Poland taking a point from the group favorites.

Team of the day

G: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Russia
LB: David Limbersky, Czech Republic
CB: Sergei Ignashevich, Russia
CB: Damien Perquis, Poland
RB: Theodor Gebre Salesse, Czech Republic
M: Thomas Hübschman, Czech Republic
M: Eugen Polanski, Poland
W: Petr Jiracek, Czech Republic
W: Jakub Blaszczykowski, Poland
F: Alan Dzagoev, Russia
F: Robert Lewandowski, Poland
Subs: Aleksandr Anyukov, Russia; Vaclav Pilar, Czech Republic; Andrei Arshavin, Russia

Three lessons to take home

1. Wide is back en vogue - Who dominated the middle of the park? Today, who cares.

Yesterday’s matches highlighted the development. Today’s reinforced it. Bringing anger from the edges (as they’d say in helmet-pad football) is how the Czech Republic and Poland got it done.

The first instance came three minutes into the day when Petr Jiracek came from the Czech Republic’s right flank, beat left back José Holebas, and gave the Czechs a lead they’d never relinquish. In the second game, Poland got wide midfielders Ludovic Obraniak (playing wide today) and Jakub Blaszczykowski on the right to exploit Yuri Zhirkov.

Tomorrow, Thomas Müller (Germany) and Michael Krahn-Dehli (Denmark) will be back in action, each having the chance to continue the trend. The Netherlands’s defense is vulnerable, with Müller set to be matched up against 18-year-old Jetro Willems. Krahn-Dehli will be wide versus a 4-3-3 which, thanks to Portugal’s approach, needs its wings to serve as outlets high (we’ll see if Paulo Bento opens up against Denmark).

2. Fullbacks matter. They really matter - We saw two 4-3-3 formations on Tuesday (Russia and Greece), each showing why fullbacks are important both executing and attacking the systems.

Russia’s fullbacks were integral to an attack that dominated possession (57 percent, per UEFA). Yuri Zhikov was solely responsible for Russia’s width on the left, allowing Andrei Arshavin to cut in and orchestrate the attack. Aleksandr Anyukov was able to get forward and exploit a flank left vacant when Alan Dzagoev cut inside. Zhirkov and Anyukov kept opposing fullbacks Sebastian Boesnich and Lukasz Piszczek true to their original positions, preventing them from compacting the defense by collapsing inside.

At the other end, Russia and Greece’s 4-3-3 were exposed after failing to protect their fullbacks. Earlier today, I mentioned Jose Holebas has been the worst player of the tournament, but somebody who wanted to argue otherwise could offer he’s received little help from his left wing. Be it Girogios Samaras or Kostas Fortounos, Greek’s left-sided attacker either has no defensive responsibility or has abdicated it.

For Russia, they can’t leave Yuri Zhirkov by himself, but Andrei Arshavin doesn’t have the fitness to help. In the past, when Arshavin’s has been health enough to track back, he’s been ineffective (Guus Hiddink often used Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to help, but the former Everton midfielder’s not in the team).

The 4-3-3 leaves Zhirkov exposed, and while most teams won’t be able to take advantage of it, the weakness is the difference between Russia being a dark horses and legitimate contenders. Teams like Germany and Spain will not be as forgiving as the Czech Republic and Poland.

3. Group stage will start to take its toll - Long after I forget the result, I’ll remember Andrei Arshavin at the end of today’s Poland-Russia match.

Late in the game, as Russia set up to pursue a winner, the ball was worked to right-center back Aleksei Berezutskiy, who wanted to play the ball forward to Arshavin (about 12 yards in front of him). All of Russia’s attacked where going through there playmaker, but if Arashavin had anything to say about it (if he could catch his breath to get the words out of his mouth), this one was going to be different. Arshavin points back to Sergei Ignashevich (the other center half), which Berezutskiy seemed to take as a joke before playing the ball to Arshavin anyway. Of course, Arshavin immediately got rid of it, hitting it to Ignashevich before resuming his exercise in respiratory stress.

It’s an extreme example but still a reminder: Three games in nine games is going to be a lot from some of these players. Two games in four days is more than most have to deal with during their club seasons. Managers rotate their stars, protect their veterans, and only in must-win situations are players pressed. Even Chelsea, during their run to their Champions League title, had to develop two lineups to protect the team they used in Europe.

Injuries are an issue, too. Tomas Rosicky, coming off a career high in games played, left today’s Greece-Czech Republic game at halftime. An Achilles problem has him doubtful for Saturday’s match with Poland.

A fragile player even when he’s being preserved, Rosicky enters a danger zone when you try to turn him around on three day’s rest. It’s unlikely he’s the only player being pushed to (and beyond) his limits.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Latest Posts
  1. Analyzing the Impact/Red Bulls deal: Is Kljestan worth losing Alexander?

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:01 PM EST

    New York Red Bulls v FC Dallas Getty Images

    Already it feels like Montreal has a major chance to be the winner in this deal, and that’s before they do anything with the allocation money.

  2. Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup: LVG squashes Januzaj loan, Campbell heads to La Liga

    Jan 27, 2015, 10:05 PM EST

    Januzaj Getty Images

    It certainly wasn’t the wildest of days for the transfer rumor mill, but Manchester United, Southampton and Crystal Palace all said hello.

  3. Rodgers proud of Liverpool in loss, disappointed by Costa’s dirty play

    Jan 27, 2015, 9:12 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Surely Brendan Rodgers wouldn’t have been surprised to see Diego Costa’s temper flare up, but it didn’t make him any more understanding.

  4. Report: Arsenal midfielder Zelalem’s U.S. eligibility far from a done deal

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:32 PM EST

    Galatasaray AS v Arsenal FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    An ESPN FC report regarding Gedion Zelalem’s U.S. eligibility looks alarming, but is it a cause for concern?

  5. In less than five months, Diego Costa has become Premier League villain No. 1

    Jan 27, 2015, 7:17 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    He’s heinous. He’s prolific. He’s the Luis Suarez of 2015. And he’s making this season worth watching and hating. Unless you’re a Chelsea supporter.

  6. Chelsea’s Mourinho candid as usual after Liverpool win: “My Ramires is back”

    Jan 27, 2015, 6:21 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Liverpool was the superior team in the first 45 minutes, but couldn’t find the finishing touch.

  7. Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool: Ivanovic ensures Blues trip to Cup final after testy second leg

    Jan 27, 2015, 5:17 PM EST

    Chelsea v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    The Blues won 1-0 on the match and 2-1 on aggregate to move on the League Cup final versus Wednesday’s winner of Spurs and Sheffield United.

  8. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Ghana and Algeria go through to the knockout rounds

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:12 PM EST

    Equatorial Guinea Soccer African Cup AP

    Six of eight knockout round slots are filled for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, and a couple well-known names are going home.

  9. VIDEO: Hosts Australia set up Asian Cup final against South Korea

    Jan 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    FBL-ASIA2015-AUS-UAE FBL-ASIA2015-AUS-UAE

    The Socceroos reached the AFC final for just the second-time in their history.

  10. DeAndre Yedlin on call up to U.S. national team, time at Tottenham so far

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:20 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy

    Yedlin flies halfway around the world to link up with USMNT after joining Tottenham in January.

  11. Barcelona’s Neymar reveals Olympic gold medal dream, hopes for Brazil in Rio 2016

    Jan 27, 2015, 1:40 PM EST

    Brazil's Neymar poses with his silver me Brazil's Neymar poses with his silver me

    Brazilian skipper aims to help Brazil win elusive Olympic gold medal on home soil.

  12. Stoke City star Bojan to miss rest of 2014-15 season with knee injury

    Jan 27, 2015, 12:57 PM EST

    Rochdale v Stoke City - FA Cup Fourth Round Getty Images

    Spaniard set to miss at least six months after rupturing anterior cruciate ligament.

  13. New York, Montreal complete huge trade; Kljestan free to join Red Bulls

    Jan 27, 2015, 12:19 PM EST

    Sacha Kljestan, international man of mustache Sacha Kljestan, international man of mustache

    Monster trade sees cash, players and allocation order’s dished out as USMNT midfielder could be heading home.

  14. League Cup semifinals: Chelsea, Liverpool level; Spurs take slender lead to Sheffield

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:10 AM EST

    Wembley final on the line: Premier League giants clash at the Bridge while Spurs head to third-tier Blades.

  15. Real Madrid reveals FIFA investigating 51 of its youth transfers

    Jan 27, 2015, 9:20 AM EST

    Emilio Butragueno, Martin Odegaard Emilio Butragueno, Martin Odegaard

    Madrid say they have “responded diligently” to requests from world soccer’s governing body.

  16. Silly season in full swing: Is Raheem Sterling really heading to Chelsea?

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC

    As Sterling continues to stall on a new deal, will Chelsea tempt the youngster with a move back to London?

  17. Iker Casillas to MLS? Real Madrid legend: “I would like to play in the United States”

    Jan 27, 2015, 7:36 AM EST

    iker_casillas AP

    Casillas declares his intention to play in the USA one day. When will that be?

  18. Hope Solo could be left off USWNT’s 2015 World Cup team, says Sunil Gulati

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:45 PM EST

    Hope Solo, USWNT Hope Solo, USWNT

    Hope Solo’s punishment for repeated alcohol-related incidents could extend much further than her initial 30-day suspension.

  19. Real Salt Lake’s Joao Plata to undergo surgery on broken foot, miss start of season

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:22 PM EST

    Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake

    3-4 months on the sidelines means a massive hole to fill to start the 2015 season.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22