Lee Wilson’s Football Ramblings
Date posted: 29-05-2012
We love spotting new talent and the writing skills of local pundit Lee Wilson caught our eye.
So here’s 2300 words on Lee’s thoughts on the where’s why’s and whats about on Euro 2012. Part 2 Coming very soon
Soooooooooooooooooo. I thought I’d make a first post just to have some written content on the website to make it look professional and all that jazz.
I blogged years ago about Dagenham and Redbridge, the club I support. There are plenty of people who fulfill this role now with more enthusiasm than I can muster. My real passion in writing comes from giving my view on the big football issues of the moment.
I’ll be airing my views on current issues, writing feature articles on any topic that comes to mind, producing previews and reviews. You get the idea anyway.
Hopefully I’ll be able to keep this blog going. It’s a busy year for me at university but I’ll need an outlet and this will hopefully for this.
FIRST UP…………..GROUP A!
With the 2012 Euros right around the corner, I thought it was only fitting to cast my expertise (ahem) at the 16 teams involved in the tournament.
As the opening match fast approaches, I imagine there will be ‘gazillions’ of previews around with the usual enthralling sub headings of ‘team’, ‘manager’, ‘one to watch’, ‘prediction’……you get the idea!
Rather than produce restrictive sub headings for readers who don’t understand how paragraphs work, it’s going to be a bit of an informal mish-mash of views, trends and the odd attempt at predicting tactics and formations.
If for nothing else, enjoy me making an utter fool of myself when everything I say turns out to be utter drivel as Roy Hodgson leads his side out to face France with a bold 3-4-3 formation making a mockery of my stubborn 4-4-2 prediction.
Let’s begin with the Petr’s. It’s the Czechs!
Let’s make it crystal clear that the Czechs honestly have no hope in hell of winning this tournament. I mean, if it wasn’t for an extremely jammy 90th minute penalty at Hampden Park against Scotland, then they wouldn’t be here in the first place. As it was, they finished 2nd in the group and cruised to a comfortable 3-0 aggregate win over Montenegro to reach the tournament. However, gone are the days of Pavel Nedved wielding his genius in midfield. No longer is Jan Koller showing up the likes of Nicola Zigic with his destructive forward displays. Ever reliable names such as Jankulovski, Poborsky, Grygera, Smicer and Galasek are no longer contributing to the all action displays of the ‘tournament dark horses’. Aside from their appearance in the final of Euro 96, the Czechs best tournament came in Euro 2004 where they dispatched Germany, Holland and Denmark en route to a semi final against Greece, which they will still be kicking themselves over now. Since then, a decline has been inevitable as top players retire and can not be replaced by a small nation.
Going into the tournament, manager Michael Bilek has been vilified by his nation for, well, being a bit rubbish really. Apparantly 96% of supporters in a recent survey wanted him sacked. Despite this, Bilek appears to still have the support of his players creating a ‘them and us’ mentality.
I see no reason that the Czechs won’t be continuing with Bilek’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation throughout the tournament. This keeps former Liverpool striker Milan Baros in a lone striker role with captain Tomas Rosicky in the hole just behind him. Bordeaux central midfielder Jaroslav Plasil will likely be deployed on the right whilst Cypriot based Jan Rezak will expect to be on the opposite side. Fantasy football bargain hunters should look no further than left back Michael Kadlec. The defender scored 4 goals in qualifying and will likely be on spot kick duty during the tournament.
The fixture list sees the Czechs begin with arguably their toughest match against Russia. This is followed by an extravaganza against Greece before a potentially very important game against rowdy hosts Poland.
Wait for it, it’s SUB HEADING TIME!
WILL THEY QUALIFY??????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I can feel the tension………….
No is my answer. The fixtures don’t fall kindly for the Czechs. A tough game first followed by a concluding fixture in a likely intimidating environment will not lead to a simple qualifying path. The Czech squad is particularly average and largely relies on those that have been there and done it in the top European leagues to be on top of their game. There is a disturbing lack of experience with around half of the squad managing less than 10 caps each. For me, the Czechs are a solid outfit who will likely compete in a weak group, but not have the firepower needed to reach the knock out stages.
Words of wisdom over, let’s move on. It’s the Euro 2004 winners, Greece!
It’s a little known fact that Greece actually won Euro 2004 (get used to this…) The Euro 2004 CHAMPIONS of Europe conquered Europe with a 1-0 victory in the final against hosts Portugal. Lone striker Angelos Charasteas was the hero as the Greeks held out to claim a famous victory. In fact, whenever Greece are mentioned in footballing terms, 2004 is always mentioned in tandem. God knows what they’ve been doing for the past eight years. Well I’ll try and inform you anyway!
Since conquering the universe, Greece have returned to their natural standing with group stage exits at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Their approach of being extremely hard to beat remains although so does unfortunately their lack of firepower. Even so, the 2004 champi……. performed fantastically in qualifying for the 2012 event with 7 victories, 3 draws and 0 defeats as they beat Croatia, Israel and Latvia to top spot. It is perhaps typical of Greece, that they achieved this by only scoring 14 goals. Nevertheless, a return of only 5 goals conceded in 10 games is amongst the best in Europe.
As for the squad, manager Fernando Santos has picked an interesting blend of youth and experience. It’s quite tough to predict how they will line up as the team will notably be different to their last competitive game such is the various absentees. Talisman and 2nd record goalscorer Angelos Charasteas is not in the 23 and neither are experienced defenders Loukas Vyntra and Nikos Spyropoulous. All three played in the side’s final qualifying victory over Georgia.
Key players will undoubtedly be 36 year old Giorgos Karagounis and main striker Theofanis Gekas. Celtic striker Giorgos Samaras keeps his place despite not impressing in qualifying and 22 year old winger Sotiris Ninis has been dubbed as important to Santos’ plans.
WILL THEY QUALIFY?????!!!!!!!!
It’s a tough one to predict. The Greeks are a notoriously tough nut to crack and have been pitted against opposition who may well struggle to break them down. At the same time, you have to wonder if they’ll have enough to respond should they go 1-0 down at any point. The opening match of the tournament against Poland is essential for their hopes. A defeat you feel would be critical with two higher ranked teams to follow. I just feel that the Greeks won’t have enough goals in them to make the top two. Therefore, I see their adventure to replicate the unbelievable, amazing Euro 2004 conquest fall at the first hurdle once again.
The excitement doesn’t stop here folks. It’s box office spectaculars, Poland!
Did you know that Poland failed to win Euro 2004? Well they didn’t, and they’ve failed to win pretty much anything in recent times. Aside from a joint bid with Ukraine of course to host this vuvuzela free tournament. So what do I know about the Poles? Well, England used to draw them a lot in qualifying and register extremely boring 2-0 victories against them. Apart from that, I’m struggling a tad. Research time!!!!
After managing to finish below Slovakia, Slovenia, Petr and Northern Ireland in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, Poland decided to cheat (or be extremely lazy!) and registered their qualification for Euro 2012 without even kicking a ball. The co-hosts actually have a fairly decent record of qualifying for major tournaments over the last decade with appearances at the World Cup in 2002 and 2006 before displaying their own brand of ‘total football’ at the 2008 Euros. As possibly predicted, the Poles failed to make it out of the group stage at any of these events.
However, there are a few reasons to think that Poland could possibly do alright in their home tournament. For the first time in three tournaments, they won’t have to rely on Ebi Smolarek to be their main source of goals. Instead, Borussia Dortmund goal machine Robert Lewandowski will be leading the line. The 23 year old has 13 goals for the national team and will provide a genuine threat to defences in group A. Dortmund team mate and international captain Jakub Blaszczykowski is a commentators nightmare and also a pretty handy winger. Thankfully, he dons the more pronounceable name ‘Kuba’ on his shirt. In goal, Arsenal goalkeeper ‘Chesney’ is a promising pair of hands between the sticks. I imagine manager Franciszek Struda will stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation that has been deployed in friendly victories over the likes of Argentina and Germany. In fact, Poland have only lost 1 of their last 9 matches so arrive at the tournament in good form. Don’t expect them to be overly adventurous though as their matches tend to be quite tight and won by the old Lewandowski or ‘Kuba’ goal.
WILL THEY QUALIFY?????!!!!
Yeah, why not! The Poles are actually very similar in structure to the Czechs in the fact that they have a couple of players with pedigree but a fairly limited squad overall. Home support will obviously be a bonus and importantly they have a goalscorer which seems to be lacking from one or two sides in this group. The hosts will have to overcome a damning statistic in that they have never won a European Championship match in order to progress. But what better time to do it. I see the hosts sneaking out of a tight group into the quarter finals.
Time to conclude this eye wateringly dull group. With love, it’s Russia!
As with all the teams in this group, it’s tough to predict exactly how Russia will fare in this tournament. Younger supporters tend to remember the Andrei Arshavin show in 2008 and assume that Russia have always been a side with the capabilities to shock in major tournaments. Realistically though, it was only after international guru Guus Hiddink took charge that Russia performed outstandingly well in Euro 2008 with some electric performances against the likes of Holland and Sweden. Nevertheless, the team then went and failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup after losing a play off to Slovenia which saw the end of Hiddink’s reign.
Fast forward two years and Russia have new direction. One dutch manager exiting paved the way for another as the experienced Dick Advocaat was tasked with re-establishing Russia amongst Europe’s elite. 7 wins from 10 qualifying games saw a comfortable qualification although they were rarely heavily tested throughout.
The core of Russia’s squad at Euro 2012 will be relatively similar to the one that excited in 2008. The likes of Igor Semshov and Konstantin Zyryanov were important players back then but at the age of 34 each, it remains to be seen if they can have the same required impact. Andrei Arshavin was the star player of Euro 2008 but his form has since deserted him at club level resulting in a move back to Russia. One area of strength for Advocaat is in the forward position. The nomadic manager has seemingly adopted a 4-3-2-1 formation which only allows him to accomodate one of Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Roman Pavlyuchenko or Pavel Pogrebniak. Elsewhere, Igor Akinfeev is considered to be one of the top European goalkeepers and Yuri Zhirkov, formerly of Chelsea, will add further experience.
In what will probably be the last tournament for many, it is likely the first of many for exciting young 21 year old Alan Dzagoev. The CSKA Moscow midfielder already has 18 caps and could be one that catches the attention of the many scouts on the lookout for break out star.
WILL THEY QUALIFY??????!!!!
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that I’m going to say yes considering I’ve only tipped one team previously to go through. However, I’m not particularly confident about this choice. Dick Advocaat has already agreed to step down as manager at the end of the campaign in order to take charge at PSV Eindhoven. Such instability can often work against a side in a major tournament. Alongside this, Russia’s squad is beginning to look a little bit tired with the same names frequently appearing and few new talents ready to replace them. Also, the likes of Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko have both been in rotten form domestically which makes you wonder if this side will have enough good surprises to muster at least two wins from it. If they were in a tougher group, I’d most likely be tipping the Russians to for early elimination. Such is the Czechs being in a similar situation but with a weaker starting point and Greece not containing any feared attacking weapons, I’ll plump for the Russians. Although don’t be surprised if the Greeks sneak a win or two and knock Advocaat’s men out early.
Thanks a million for reading. I appreciate this isn’t the most exciting group to analyse and read about. However, if you’re a sad act like me, I find tight groups like this quite interesting. There will undoubtedly be some tight matches and qualification could go any of four ways really. As I’ve predicted Russia and Poland to advance, watch the Czechs roll back the years and Greece put on an attacking masterclass! Also, sorry for a little formatting problem in the Russia section. The text decided it wanted to change and wasn’t going to change back no matter what I did.
If you liked what you read, then please keep coming back for more. A group B analysis will be up soon.
If you add me on twitter @Leewilsondrfc , I’ll update my page when the new blog is up. Also, I could do with the followers in all honesty!!
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See you in the Group B analysis where I’ll be looking deeper into four sides who definitely did not win Euro 2004.