EURO 2012: 9 Very Bold Predictions for Russia's Tournament
With one day remaining until EURO 2012 kicks off, it's time to take out the crystal ball and make some predictions about what we will see in Poland and Ukraine.
For Russia, the combination of a veteran squad and a relatively easy group dictate high expectations for their campaign.
A semifinal berth in their last EURO bid just heaps pressure onto the Russians.
With so much riding on this tournament, can Russia live up to—or even exceed—their fans' expectations?
Here are my predictions for Russia's EURO 2012 campaign.
Andrey Arshavin Leads the Russians...
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The captain of Russia, Arshavin uses his speed to incredible advantage.
In EURO 2008, after being suspended for the first two matches, Arshavin scored and set up goals in both the final group game and the quarterfinal against the Netherlands and was named the Man of the Match in both.
After leaving Arsenal on loan in January, he has been fairly successful in his time with Zenit St. Petersburg.
Arshavin will surely be a key player in Russia's EURO bid, and I think he will rise to the occasion once again.
...Alan Dzagoev Comes of Age...
The 21-year-old midfielder from CSKA Moscow has been a potential star for many years.
This tournament will be his coming-out party.
Dzagoev will become a threat on the international level and establish himself as potentially one of the best attacking midfielders in world football.
...and Roman Pavlyuchenko Fades
This will be a tournament to forget for Roman Pavlyuchenko.
The 30-year-old striker, who used to be such a focal point for the Russian attack and partner to Arshavin, has only six goals in the past year of club play.
Can he cast his lack of playing time and form aside for international glory?
I'd say that it's too big of a task for Pav.
They Give Up One Goal in the Group Stage...
Russia's defense is very stout and will prove to be one of their best assets at EURO 2012.
In qualification for Poland and Ukraine, Russia gave up only four goals.
With Igor Akinfeev returning from injury, I'd say a similarly impressive record is in line for the Russians.
...Defeat Czech Republic 2-0...
It will be a tough match for both sides, as Petr Cech plays amazingly in net.
However, Russia finally finds the breakthrough in the second half.
From there, the Czech defense collapses, and Russia wins going away.
It will be a sweet start to the tournament.
...Draw Poland 1-1...
Despite an early Robert Lewandowski goal, it will be a late equalizer from Andrey Arshavin that will salvage a draw for Russia.
It's an important goal in the Russians' campaign, and they maintain position in the group and edge toward a quarterfinal berth.
...And Defeat Greece 1-0.
It's another hard-fought victory, as Greece's defensive style is extremely effective.
However, with little to play for, Greece makes a mistake that allows the Russian victory.
It's pandemonium in Moscow.
They Win Their Group...
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With Group A being so wide open, seven points on two wins and a draw are enough for Russia to lock up the top spot in their group.
After all, the Russians have the pedigree and experience that their competitors are lacking.
...But Fall to Portugal 1-0 in the Quarterfinals
After winning their group, it will be a disappointing exit for Dick Advocaat's men.
The defensive style that the coach employs will be the downfall of the team, as Portugal out-defend them and nick the winner.
A stunned Russia will be left to rue the fact that they did not go forward more often or take more of their few opportunities.
It will be a valuable learning experience for their squad.
However, it might be the last hurrah for most of this set of players.
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