Friday sees the beginning of this summer’s European Championships, with co-hosts Poland entertaining 2004 winners Greece in the opening game of the tournament in Warsaw. Later in the day, Russia meet the Czech Republic in Wroclaw, and it’s the former who go in to the tournament as favourites to win Group A.
Euro 2008 saw Russia reach the semi-finals, in their best performance since the break-up of the former USSR. Dick Advocat’s men lost just once on their way to winning their qualification group this time around, and haven’t tasted defeat since a narrow friendly loss to Iran last February – thirteen matches ago.
One thing surely in the Russians favour is that their first choice midfield, likely to consist of trio Igor Denisov, Roman Shirokov and Konstantin Zyryanov, play their club football together with Russian Premier League Champions Zenit St. Petersburg, along with striker Alexander Kerzhakov, whilst captain Andriy Arshavin enjoyed a successful loan period back at Zenit in the second half of the season.
Russia are best priced 2.6 (8/5) favourites with Bodog to win their group, ahead of Poland who are 3.75 (11/4) with Bet Victor. In Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski, the Polish have one of the hottest young strikers in Europe leading the line, and he could well hit the ground running in that opening match on Friday.
The second round of fixtures sees Russia and Poland lock horns, in what is set to be one of the games of the group stages, and a straight shoot out to see who will win the group.
Czech Republic are next in line at 5.0 (4/1) with the majority of bookmakers, after qualifying for the tournament following their play-off victory over Montenegro, whilst you can get a price of 6.0 (5/1) for Greece who despite going unbeaten through the qualifiers, are a far different proposition from the side that won the tournament eight years ago.
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