June 8th, 2012 marks a date that people not only in Europe, but all around the world, have been looking forward for some time now. It marks the date where Europe’s best national teams descend on Poland and Ukraine for almost a month of continuous soccer. On the first day there are two games, the first of which will feature Russia taking on the Czech Republic in Wroclaw, Poland.
If you know anything about world soccer, you can quickly see that Russia has a lineup that dwarves that of the Czechs. It goes without saying that as far as talent goes Russia is the superior team with names like Forward Roman Pavlyuchenko and Midfielder Andrei Arshavin, but the Czechs have been known to dig out results from seemingly lost circumstances. Backed by one of the best young goalkeepers in the world, in Igor Akinfeev, the Russians are very high on their own squad and have, for some time, anticipated winning an admittedly weak Group A.
Russia is coming off a very impressive qualifying run that saw them win their group (B) and advance to the Euro tournament by 2 points over the Republic of Ireland. In their 10 match qualifying period, the Russians won 7, drew two, and lost but one match all while sporting an impressive +13 goal differential. If anything can be said about the Russian squad, it is that they are solid all around. A great goalkeeper is backed by a stout defense and the attacking third is sieged on a consistent basis.
While I talked up Russia considerably, that does not mean you should count the Czech’s out completely. Keep in mind that the Czech team is backed by their 2012 UEFA Champions League winning goalkeeper and long-time veteran Petr Cech. Cech can only do so much though, and the place where the Czechs need the most help is in the attacking third as they do not really have that one player that can separate from the pack and really dominate the game. Instead, the Czechs will have to sit back and defend, carefully waiting for the right moment to attack. Tomas Rosicky, from his midfield position, will have to keep his team under control and safely coordinate counter-attacks that can help bolster the Czech attack. It will take a large amount of defending, but the Czechs should not be written out, they are confident in themselves just like the Russians are.
As far as the odds go, Bovada.lv has the Russians being the favorite as they currently sit at +110 on the betting line. The underdog Czechs sit at +270 on the moneyline and a draw sits at +225.
I have hinted at it this whole time, but my prediction is going to have to side with the Russians. Their squad is too balanced in comparison with a Czech squad that seems to need it defense and goalkeeping just to keep them in the game.
Pick: RUSSIA TO WIN (+110)