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Russia v Czech Republic – Match Preview

Group A favourites Russia kick off their Euro 2012 campaign against Czech Republic with head coach Dick Advocaat believing his side have an outside chance of winning the tournament.

After concluding their preparations with an impressive 3-0 win over Italy last week the Russians have been installed as favourites to top their group.

Guus Hiddink led them to the semi-finals four years ago and Advocaat is bullish on his sides chances of going even further this time around but believes they deserve their dark horses tag.

The Dutchman, who will leave to join PSV Eindhoven next season, cited Greece’s triumph in 2004 and the unpredictable nature of the finals that will give his side the confidence that they can go all the way in Poland and Ukraine.

He told “Realistically, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany have the better sides and better individuals.

“But, again, in a tournament like this [anything] can happen, as Greece showed in 2004. So we are a nice outsider.”

“We have a good team, we have the quality, and it is very important that the players start believing in that.

“So, yes, if we have the form and everything is going the right way, we have a very dangerous team.”

They’ll face a tough challenge against a Czech Republic team that reached the semi-finals in 2004 and are desperate to make up for a disappointing performance in Austria and Switzerland four years ago, when they exited at the group stage.

An underwhelming qualifying campaign, that required a narrow play-off victory over Montenegro, has significantly lowered expectations for Michal Bilek’s side.

Eight years ago the likes of Pavel Nedved, Vladimir Smicer, Jan Koller, and Karel Poborsky were pulling the Czech strings but long since retired from the international scene with the onus to perform shifting to senior players Thomas Rosicky, Petr Cech, Jaroslav Plasil and Milan Baros

They’ll need to be firing on all cylinders when they come face-to-face with Russia at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw and a positive result in their opening game will set the tone for the rest of their tournament.

Injury News

Advocaat will be able to select oalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, right-back Aleksandr Anyukov and striker Roman Pavlyuchenko after they came through training unscathed.

Czech coach Bilek has concerns over Baros who’s been sidelined for much of the week with a muscle injury but Rosicky should feature after overcoming a calf problem.

Key Players

Andrei Arshavin

The Arsenal midfielder has been rejuvenated following a loan spell with Zenit Saint Petersburg and will be hoping he can recapture the form that made him one of the stars of Euro 2008. Arshavin will wear the captain’s armband and will be expected to lead by example as Russia aim to better their performance of four years ago.

Milan Baros

With a record of 41 goals in 89 games for his country there is no doubting Baros’ pedigree at international level. The 30-year-old clinched the Golden Boot at Euro 2004 and the responsibility to score goals in Poland and Ukraine will fall on his shoulders. His capability to put the ball into the back of the net when the opportunity presents itself will be key to the Czech’s progressing to the knock-out stage.

Prediction: 2-0

Article title: Russia v Czech Republic – Match Preview

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