The Czech Republic will draw on
memories of impressive runs at past tournaments while Russia are
looking to show their semi-final appearance in 2008 was no fluke
when they clash in their Euro 2012 Group A opener in Wroclaw on
The Czechs, who lost to Germany in the Euro 1996 final and
reached the semi-finals in 2004, are determined to re-establish
themselves as a force in European football after slipping to 26
in the FIFA world rankings.
With a mix of experienced players led by Arsenal's Tomas
Rosicky and Chelsea's Petr Cech, along with a raft of newcomers,
the Czechs are optimistic of at least progressing from what
should be a tightly-contested group also featuring co-hosts
Poland and Greece.
"All the teams will think they have a chance to qualify for
the quarter-finals," Czech national team manager Vladimir Smicer
said. "The really important match for us will be the first game
against Russia. They are the favourites in our group."
The Russians are unbeaten in 14 matches and thrashed Italy
3-0 in a Euro warm-up last Friday.
Despite a sluggish start to the qualifiers which included a
laboured 2-0 win over tiny Andorra and a 1-0 home defeat to
Slovakia, Russia comfortably sealed their place at this year's
finals by finishing top of qualifying Group B.
Russia rarely produced the attacking flair that made them
look so attractive in Austria and Switzerland in 2008 but they
were defensively sound, conceding only four goals in their 10
That will prove a challenge for the Czechs who have found it
tough to score goals lately and have worries over the fitness of
striker Milan Baros.
While Baros, who sat out training on Wednesday, has only
scored three times for the Czech team in the past two years,
coach Michal Bilek has few experienced attacking options at his
disposal beyond the Golden Boot winner at the 1994 Euro
"I hope he is in good form and can perform because he is our
most experienced striker," the former Liverpool player Smicer
said. "If he is playing well then everything is much easier for
For Russia, goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev, defender Alexander
Anyukov and midfielder Marat Izmailov have shaken off slight
niggles and have trained over the last couple of days.
Russia and the Czech Republic last met in 1996, when they
drew 3-3 at the Euro 1996 tournament.
England striker puts pen to paper on permanent deal
The new season is but six weeks away (in the Football League)
It's all about the legacy, says Sepp
Toon upheaval continues in style
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010