At Euro 2012, Group A could be considered the Group of Life as no team is a significant favorite to advance and a combination of struggling offenses and miserly defenses should make for a competitive, if not compelling, Round-robin. Can any of these underdogs replicate Greece’s 2004 run to the title? Here are five notes on Group A, which kicks off the tournament on Friday.
• 2008 was the first time Poland qualified for the European Championship; it managed just a single point and a last-place group finish. The Poles have higher hopes this year but haven’t reached the knockout stage of a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.
• Though Greece is currently 14th in FIFA’s World Rankings, ESPN’s Soccer Power Index rates Greece the lowest of all 16 qualifiers. The primary reason for this is Greece’s infamous lack of goals. The Pirate Ship has tallied three goals in the last two major tournaments combined, failing to advance each time. The Greeks also scored 1.4 goals per game in qualifying, fewes among the 14 teams who won their spots in Euro 2012.
• Russia was the Cinderella story of Euro 2008, upsetting the Dutch with a deserved 3-1 win in the quarterfinals before falling to Spain in the semis. Though a high-flying offense drove that semifinal run, it was a stout defense that carried Dick Advocaat’s team to Euro 2012. Russia allowed four goals in 10 qualifiers; only Italy sported a stingier defense in qualifying (two goals allowed in 10 games).
• Czech Republic is back at the European Championship after losing the game of the tournament in 2008, falling to Turkey 3-2 after allowing two goals in the final four minutes. Offense was an issue for the Czechs through most of qualifying: No player scored more than two goals in the run of play and until a four-goal outburst against Lithuania on the final day of group play, the Czech Republic managed a meager total of eight goals in seven matches.
• SPI ranks all four teams in the bottom half of qualifiers and projects Russia as a marginal favorite to advance at 60.6 percent. Despite the second-lowest rating at the tournament, Poland is the second favorite thanks to home-field advantage. Czech Republic is not far behind, and Greece is a distant fourth because of the aforementioned scoring woes, though the Greeks still have a reasonable 30.1 shot to make the quarters.
Pct Chance to Advance From Group A
Russia - 60.6
Poland - 57.6
Czech Rep. - 51.7
Greece - 30.1