One match is all that remains for each team in the group stage of Euro 2012. As Group A comes to a close on Saturday, all four teams will play at the same time to prevent potential collusion and match-fixing allegations that commonly arise in the sport of soccer.
One of the final Group A games will see the hosts Poland continue their bid to qualify to the next round against a rejuvenated Czech Republic side. This group was expected to be the most wide-open one in the tournament and it has certainly lived up to that billing, as all four squads hold chances to advance entering their final match. Prior to competition, many pundits pegged Russia as a decent bet for advancement, but figured Poland, and the Czechs would battle for the second spot, and that’s what will play out Saturday in Wroclaw.
The Poles began their tournament with a disappointing draw against the Greeks, but rebounded nicely against a dangerous Russian side. Despite going down early against Russia, Poland stormed back in the second half, eventually tying the match. Poland carried the bulk of possession in the final stages of the game, and had many opportunities to obtain three points. While a draw may be good enough for the Poles to advance, they can control their own destiny with a win, and will be keen on attacking the Czechs on every opportunity.
Meanwhile, it’s been quite the tournament already for the Czech Republic. After getting thoroughly embarrassed against Russia in their opening fixture, they looked entirely different against Greece. The Czechs scored two goals in the opening five minutes against the Greeks and cruised to a convincing victory. However in their final fixture, the Czechs will endure a motivated Polish side, spurred on by the deafening cheers of their devout supporters. It will be a hostile atmosphere for the Czech Republic to deal with, and their hopes for advancement won’t come easy going against such a decisive home-field advantage.
Poland vs Czech Republic Betting Odds:
Poland (+130) / Draw (+250) / Czech Republic (+230)
Over 2.5 (+105) / Under 2.5 (-115)
Match Analysis & Pick:
For a country that has been mostly devoid of success on the international soccer stage, Poland isn’t taking this opportunity for granted. In fact, Polish captain Jakub Blaszczykowski has heralded this clash as a “mini-final,” while also claiming it is “the biggest match in the recent past for all of us.” Clearly, the Poles know what’s at stake, and the chance to advance to the playoff rounds in front of their loyal fans is an experience that Poland values very highly.
Poland will surely be gunning for a clear victory, assuring them progression to the next round, and the Czechs will be focused on the same result. With the uncertainty of what will occur in the other Group A fixture between Russia and Greece, both sides know the best method of assuring advancement, is winning this match. Czech captain Tomas Rosicky has insisted in the days leading up to this game that his team will definitely play for the three points. Even though a draw would mean progression for the Czechs assuming that Russia does beat Greece, the Czech Republic know they can’t enter this atmosphere thinking a draw will be enough. Going against an energetic side in Poland, that possess the always dangerous Robert Lewandowski up front, means if the Czechs merely sit back and hope for a draw, they’ll likely be burned by a potent Polish attack.
Meanwhile, the Czechs have some injury concerns entering this pivotal match. Their captain, Rosicky is dealing with an ankle injury and is far from certain to suit up for his country. If he cannot go, it would be a huge blow to the midfield and creativity of the Czechs. Much of the team’s offense is generated through the Arsenal midfielder, and a Rosicky absence could prove devastating for the future of the Czechs in Euro 2012.
Poland will be of course hoping for Rosicky’s exclusion from the line-up, however even if he does suit up the Poles possess an aggressive midfield, capable of limiting his ability. Thus far in the competition, the Poles have been spurred on by the Borussia Dortmund trio of Lukas Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski, and Robert Lewandowski. The three have been instrumental to Poland’s attack, specifically down the right flank. The Czech defense have proven susceptible in the centre of defence both in qualification, and in the Russia match, and look for this trio to exploit this weakness. Lewandowski is a huge target in middle for Poland, and the prolific striker should be able to toy with the Czech back-line, while winning the aerial battle as well.
Expect the Poles to generate the better chances, and control the play in front of their home fans. Everything is on the line for these players, and they’re well-aware of their role as potential national heroes. Look for Lewandowski to lead the way for the Poles, creating chances and frequently testing the wonky shoulder of Czech keeper, Petr Cech. This should be a wide-open match as both sides will be looking for a win. Expect the teams to exchange early goals, and with the defense loosening in the latter stages, Polish striker Robert Lewandowski will send the home fans into a frenzy netting the winner.
Poland are generously priced in what is a must-win fixture played on their home turf, and won’t let this opportunity slip away.
PICK: Poland To Win (+130)