Following a series of thrilling finishes across the domestic leagues of Europe, soccer’s most competitive tournament returns to the world stage in June of 2012. Raising the curtains for this always popular event will be the hosts Poland welcoming the surprise 2004 champions of Greece.
Though the Poles received automatic qualification to the tournament as hosts, many still expect Poland to justify their presence with a solid showing on their home turf. For one, they were extremely fortunate with a favourable draw in Group A, which features no genuine powerhouses. And two, this is a side that enters brimming with confidence, possessing top-flight talent at key positions igniting a wave of hope and promise within the country. Coach Franciszek Smuda will rely heavily on his big three players of Robert Lewandowski, Lukasz Piszczek, and Jakub Blaszczkowski, knowing the Dortmund trio will be vital to any success the Poles are to have in this tournament.
Conversely, though the Greek economic and political situations appear to be in disarray, their soccer program remains something citizens can take pride in. Greece was simply dominant in qualification for Euro 2012, and employs one of the stiffest defensive schemes in the tournament. The Greeks suffocate their opponents, mitigating damage and providing opposition minimal free space to work with. Only eight years removed from their shock Euro 2004 triumph, a well-organized side like the Greeks can never be counted out in a competition that has grown accustomed to producing the unlikely.
Poland vs Greece Betting Odds:
Poland (+100)/Draw (+220)/Greece (+320)
Over 2.0 (+110)/Under 2.0 (-130)
Match Analysis & Pick:
Historically, games to begin a tournament are often low-scoring, and tentative affairs, and expect this encounter to be no different. Greece possesses a formidable back-line spearheaded by the young Kyriakos Papdopoulous, and allowed only five goals in ten qualifying matches.
Despite Poland’s big three, all of whom ply their trade at Germany’s top-club Borussia Dortmund, don’t be surprised if the stage tests the nerves of the Poles in the early minutes of this fixture. Though Poland has emerged as a deep and talented soccer nation, they still have yet to be tested on a stage of this magnitude and playing a frustrating opponent could get coach Smuda’s squad off of their intended game-plan.
If you like offense and open play, this likely is not the match for you. Look for Greece to employ their traditional defence-first approach, forcing the Poles onto the perimeter of the pitch, taking away their time and space, and looking for goals either on the counter-attack or via set-piece situations. Greece has burned teams in the past off set plays, and the combination of Giorgios Karagounis’ delivery and the aerial threat the Greeks possess, makes them a lethal bunch on corners and free kicks. Poland’s keeper Wojciech Szczesny is excellent between the posts and will be counted on to provide key saves from a sneaky Greek side.
Since this contest should most likely be devoid of offensive attacks, the Under offers great value here. Poland will force the issue for the majority of the match, trying desperately to impress their home fans with a decisive victory, but the Greeks are an experienced squad that will not be overwhelmed by the setting or style Poland will employ. They maintain their shape extremely well and are as disciplined as any team in the tournament. Greece has struggled to manufacture goals, but they know defence is what remains vital to their tournament success. Look for that to provide them with a result in what should be a hostile, opening-match atmosphere.
Though this certainly won’t be a repeat of Greece upsetting hosts Portugal like they did in their 2004 triumph, expect a disciplined and confident Greek side to limit Poland damage in a low-scoring opening affair. Take the Under, and consider the value a draw provides.
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