Euro 2012: Milestone for Lukas Podolski and Football's Harsh Reality

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Euro 2012: Milestone for Lukas Podolski and Football's Harsh Reality
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Despite showcasing one of the most exciting football displays in Euro 2012, Russia has been ousted from the competition, courtesy of the harsh "head-to-head" rule that has made all the work done by the Red Army equate to zero.

The Russians tore Czech Republic apart in their curtain-raiser and were equally impressive against the host nation, Poland.

In the final set of fixtures in Group A, they needed to see out Greece, but a decisive effort from Georgios Karagounis put Russia to the sword and cost them a place in the quarterfinals.

It’s also fair to say that the Greeks got their sweet revenge on a nation that defeated them in the last group fixture of Euro 2004.

In 2004, Greece’s fairytale adventure after the group phase started with a quarterfinal victory over France, before seeing out a very strong Czech Republic side—a side that had won every game to that point—in the semis. They wrote their names in the history books after defeating Portugal in the finals.

Their Euro 2004 victory was more or less touted as the biggest upset in football history, and the nation’s FIFA ranking sky-rocketed to 14th place after the tournament.

Otto Renhagel was labelled a legend in the shores of Greece, but his side plummeted into mediocrity in subsequent years.

Greece put up a poor showing in the 2005 Confederations Cup, crashing out of the group stages, and this was followed up with failure to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Two years later, at Euro 2008, Greece made history for all the wrong reasons, being the first defending champions not to earn a single point in the next UEFA European Football Championship.

Then they had 1994 deja vu in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as Argentina and Nigeria were paired with them again in the group stages. But Greece failed to go beyond the first round.

Poland, on the other hand, aren’t the greatest of footballing nations, but they played their own brand of good football, which was unfortunately not good enough for them to go beyond the group stages.

Their household names like Robert Lewandowski and Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski came to the party, but Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny put himself in the spotlight after his dismissal in their Poland's game.

Szczesny has seen his career soar into great heights in such little time, but Poland’s exit from the tournament should give the lad some time to reflect on himself ahead of the forthcoming season.

He must, however, give himself a pat on the back for his performances last season because they earned him a starting place in Poland’s national team ahead of Artur Boruc, Tomasz Kuszczak and his teammate Lukasz Fabianski.

Despite being one of the players to watch in the tournament, the goalie endured a torrid start to his Euro 2012 adventure, which inadvertently cost him his place to Przemyslaw Tyton.

However, Szczesny is no stranger to that act of “displacement,” as he rightly displaced Lukasz Fabianski to make the No. 1 jersey his own.

Fabianski has voiced his frustration at playing second fiddle to his compatriot and has stated that he wants to leave the club.

A few weeks back, my pals at Memoirs of a Gooner published a post on Szczesny tagged "Just how good is Arsenal’s No. 1?" and they unveiled some interesting stats on the goalie. Trust me, it’s worth a read.

However, we should get it into the back of our minds that Szczesny is still on a steep learning curve and he can only get better with time. His confidence level is at par with that of Nicklas Bendtner, but he has a cool head, and he certainly won’t show off his Paddy Power pants if he saves a penalty in the 90th minute from Lionel Messi.

Still, sticking with the harsh realities of Euro 2012, Andrey Arshavin will certainly be at crossroads, and he’ll have all the time in the world to ponder on his future as his Russian side was stunned by Greece last night.

I’m a big fan of the little Russian magician, and I’ll like him to remain at the Emirates for the time being. Arshavin is a senior player of immense quality, and his assists for his teammates in the Euros showed what he’s capable of.

On the other side of the scale, Arshavin is a very lethargic player with a lackadaisical attitude on the pitch, making him unbearable to watch at times.

I’m pretty sure that Arsene Wenger has plans for him, but the ball firmly remains in his court. Irrespective of what the future holds for Arshavin, I and my Gooners out there will be forever thankful for his performance against Liverpool in April 2009.

He was simply four-midable.

Tonight’s games are going to be mouthwatering, to say the least. The German Machines are more or less assured of qualification, after producing efficient performances to see out the threats of Portugal and the Netherlands, who lock horns together with the sole aim being to seal qualification to the quarterfinals.

Joachim Low might be tempted to field a second-tier side against Denmark, but Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski could be in line to make his 100th appearance for the German National team.

Podolski made his debut as far back as 2004—at 19 years old—in a friendly against Hungary, which made him the first second-division player since 1975 to break into the national team.

Prior to the Euro 2012, Podolski had featured in four major tournaments for Germany—Euro 2004, 2006 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup—and he has managed to score 43 goals for his national team, averaging a goal every two games for Germany.

It’s fair to say that he hasn’t ignited an expectant Arsenal fanbase, which is watching him closely, but he has been superb on the left-hand side in my opinion, providing adequate support to Phillip Lahm in Germany’s tactically astute 4-2-3-1 setup.

I hope Podolski savors the occasion and caps it up with a goal, changing his tally to 44 goals in a century of appearances.

This article is also featured on Toni Okike's Arsenal Blog, Gooner Daily.

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