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Euro 2012 Preview: Russia favored in Group A
by Paul Kennedy, June 6th, 2012 3:31AM

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TAGS:  european championship, greece, russia

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GROUP A PREDICTION. 1. Russia, 2. Poland, 3. Greece, 4 Czech Republic.

NAME YOU KNOW. Fans worried about the fate of England without Wayne Rooney, suspended for the first two games, can take heart from the experience of Andrei Arshavin.

Suspended for the first two games of Euro 2008, Shava came back to lead Russia to the semifinals, shredding the Dutch defense in overtime of the 3-1 defeat of the favored Netherlands.

Arshavin's performance earned him a transfer from Zenit St. Petersburg to Arsenal the next winter. He showed Gunner fans a glimpse of his talents with a four-goal game at Liverpool in April 2009, but he never really settled in at Arsenal and returned to Zenit on loan in March.

Such is the depth of the Russian squad that neither Arshavin nor Roman Pavlyuchenko, also back in Russia after a difficult time in England, is certain to start in Russia's opener against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw.

NAME YOU'LL KNOW. After Albanian-born Sotiris Ninis and Giannis Fetfatzidis, dubbed the Greek Messi, teenager Kostas Fortounis is the latest young player to raise the hopes of Greek fans looking for a diversion from their country's economic crisis.

Only 19, the attacking midfielder has attracted the interest of clubs like Juventus and Ajax after only one season at German club Kaiserslautern.

Kaiserslautern's relegation to the German Second Division and Fortounis' modest salary -- only $255,000 a year -- have fueled speculation that he'll switch clubs after the Euros.

"I don’t have any problem of playing in the second division of the German league,” he said.  “Of course. I will look at the situation and if there is another offer from a team abroad and my team agrees to let me go, I will most likely leave. As for my return to a Greek team, I wouldn’t want to return at this phase of my career.”

TABLOID FODDER. Former Polish goalkeeping great Jan Tomaszewski's comments he would not support a national team that contained "Germans and Frenchmen" touched off a controversy over the role of imported players in the co-hosts' lineup.

Reports that French-born Ludovic Obraniak was uncomfortable playing for Poland -- comments he denied making -- only fueled the controversy.

"I've only learned about all this from you," he said of a French magazine article in which he was quoted as saying several Polish players did not want him in the team. "I'm shocked and disgusted. I will say this once and that is it. I feel Polish and I like my teammates."

That didn't prevent a Polish journalist from asking Obraniak, whose grandparents were Polish and speaks only a little Polish, to sing a part of the Polish national anthem.

Obraniak and Damien Perquis are both French-born and played for France's under-21 national team. Sebastian Boenisch and midfielder Eugen Polanski were both born in Poland but moved to Germany as infants. They both played for Germany's U-21s.

M*A*S*H REPORT. Two of the Czech Republic's most experienced attacking players, captain Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros, are injured, leaving Coach Michal Bilek in a quandary about who will lead his attack in Friday's opening game against Russia.

Rosicky has had a calf problem, while Baros, recalled because of the Czechs' lack of firepower, has been bothered by a thigh problem in recent days.

TWITTER, YES OR NO? Russia coach Dick Advocaat will allow his players to tweet during Euro 2012 -- even if he'll have no idea what they're writing.

The Dutchman, who doesn't read Russian himself, says everybody is responsible for the things they write and he trusts his players not to be out of line.

Midfielder Roman Shirokov is known for being outspoken and taking aim at teammates and fans via Twitter.

“Unfortunately, I can’t read it in Russian, but I heard a lot about it,” Advocaat said of Shirokov's tweets. “Shirokov is an adult and understands what he’s doing. If he writes something over the top, we’ll surely inform him about that.”
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GROUP A SCHEDULE:
June 8 in in Warsaw
Poland vs. Greece, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, noon ET
June 8 in in Wroclaw
Russia vs. Czech Republic, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
June 12 in Wroclaw
Greece vs. Czech Republic, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, noon ET
June 12 in Warsaw
Poland vs. Russia, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
June 16 in Warsaw
Greece vs. Russia, ESPN, ESPN3, 2:45 p.m. ET (ESPN Deportes, 5:30 pm ET)
June 16 in Wroclaw
Czech Republic vs. Poland, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
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GROUP A ROSTERS:
Czech Republic
Goalkeepers: 1-Petr Cech (Chelsea), 23-Jaroslav Drobny (Hamburg), 16-Jan Lastuvka (Dnipro).
Defenders: 2-Theodor Gebre Selassie (Slovan Liberec), 5-Roman Hubnik (Hertha Berlin), 3-Michal Kadlec (Bayer Leverkusen), 8-David Limbersky (Viktoria Plzen), 6-Tomas Sivok (Besiktas), 4-Marek Suchy (Spartak Moscow).
Midfielders: 22-Vladimir Darida (Viktoria Plzen), 17-Tomas Hubschman (Shakhtar Donetsk), 19-Petr Jiracek (Wolfsburg), 18-Daniel Kolar (Viktoria Plzen), 11-Milan Petrzela (Viktoria Plzen), 14-Vaclav Pilar (Wolfsburg), 13-Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux), 12-Frantisek Rajtoral (Viktoria Plzen), 10-Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal).
Forwards: 15-Milan Baros (Galatasaray), 21-David Lafata (Jablonec), 7-Tomas Necid (CSKA Moscow), 20-Tomas Pekhart (Nuremberg), 9-Jan Rezek (Anorthosis)

Greece
Goalkeepers: 1-Kostas Chalkias (PAOK), 13-Michalis Sifakis (Aris), 12-Alexandros Tzorvas (Palermo).
Defenders: 15-Vasilis Torosidis (Olympiakos), 5-Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Schalke 04), 19-Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Werder Bremen), 8-Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), 20-Jose Holebas (Olympiakos), 3-Giorgos Tzavellas (Monaco), 4-Stelios Malezas (PAOK).
Midfielders: 21-Kostas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos), 10-Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), 2-Giannis Maniatis (Olympiakos), 16-Giorgos Fotakis (PAOK), 6-Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens), 23-Giannis Fetfatzidis (Olympiakos), 18-Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), 22-Kostas Fortounis (Kaiserslautern).
Forwards: 14-Dimitris Salpigidis (PAOK), 7-Giorgos Samaras (Celtic), 17-Fanis Gekas (Samsunspor), 9-Nikos Liberopoulos (AEK Athens), 11-Kostas Mitroglou (Atromitos).

Poland
Goalkeepers: 1-Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal), 22-Przemyslaw Tyton (PSV), 12-Grzegorz Sandomierski (Racing Genk).
Defenders: 2-Sebastian Boenisch (Werder Bremen), 4-Marcin Kaminski (Lech Poznan), 15-Damien Perquis (Sochaux), 20-Lukasz Piszczek (Bor. Dortmund), 13-Marcin Wasilewski (Anderlecht), 14-Jakub Wawrzyniak (Legia Warsaw), 3-Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (Lech Poznan).
Midfielders: 16-Jakub Blaszczykowski (Bor. Dortmund), 5-Dariusz Dudka (Auxerre), 21-Kamil Grosicki (Sivasspor), 6-Adam Matuszczyk (For. Duesseldorf), 18-Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor), 11-Rafal Murawski (Lech Poznan), 7-Eugen Polanski (Mainz), 10-Ludovic Obraniak (Bordeaux), 8-Maciej Rybus (Terek Grozny), 19-Rafal Wolski (Legia Warsaw).
Forwards: 23-Pawel Brozek (Celtic), 9-Robert Lewandowski (Bor. Dortmund), 17-Artur Sobiech (Hannover 96)

Russia
Goalkeepers: 1-Igor Akinfeyev (CSKA Moscow), 16-Vyacheslav Malafeyev (Zenit St Petersburg), 13-Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow)
Defenders: 2-Alexander Anyukov (Zenit St. Petersburg), 12-Alexei Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), 4-Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), 3-Roman Sharonov (Rubin Kazan), 19-Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), 21-Kirill Nababkin (CSKA Moscow)
Midfielders: 7-Igor Denisov (Zenit St. Petersburg), 6-Roman Shirokov (Zenit St. Petersburg), 8-Konstantin Zyryanov (Zenit St. Petersburg), 5-Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala), 17-Alan Dzagoyev (CSKA Moscow), 23-Igor Semshov (Dynamo Moscow), 22-Denis Glushakov (Lok. Moscow), 9-Marat Izmailov (Sporting), 15-Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow)
Forwards: 10-Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal), 11-Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St. Petersburg), 14-Roman Pavlyuchenko (Lok. Moscow), 18-Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), 20-Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham).



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