What: Euro 2012 Group A
Who: Greece vs Czech Republic
When: Tuesday 12th June, 2012, at 17.00 UK Time
Where: Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw, Poland

Greeks Look to Build on Impressive Opening Draw

Just 45 minutes into Euro 2012’s first game and it looked as if Greece were already packing their belongings ready for the journey back to Athens. 1-0 down and reduced to ten men, a comfortable opening victory beckoned for co-hosts Poland.

But then enter Dimitris Salpigidis; the substitute turned the game on its head, scoring the equaliser and winning a penalty, which also reduced Poland to ten men – even if Giorgos Karagounis subsequently missed it.

The Ethniki now take on a Czech Republic side that were convincingly beaten by Russia in their opener. Victory for the 2004 champions would mean at least one foot in the quarter-finals – and the display against Poland will give the Greeks hope.

Coach Fernando Santos will need to make at least a couple of changes however. Sokratis Papastathopoulos is suspended following his two yellow cards and Avraam Papadopoulos is out of the tournament with a knee ligament injury. Giorgos Fotakis has also had to miss training with a thigh injury and is a doubt.

Must Win for Czech Republic

Czech coach Michal Bilek will need to call on all his managerial talent if the Narodak are still to progress out of the group stage. They were unable to cope with Russia’s attacking verve in Wroclaw and will need to improve defensively in their remaining fixtures against Greece and Poland. In an ideal world two wins are required, but a minimum haul of four points is needed if they are to have any chance of reaching the knockout phase.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech was the first to admit that his team’s next game was critical to their Euro 2012 future, and was quick to point out that an opening match result is not always what it seems.

“The game against Russia did not go as planned. But at the same time, during the 2006 World Cup we started with a 3-0 victory against the United States and did not qualify from the group”, said the Chelsea man. “The next step is to win the next game. The first game sometimes gives an indication of the group, but the second game will be decisive. If we fail, our chances of reaching the quarter-finals will be small.”

Recent form

Greece 1-1 Slovenia (26/05; Friendly)
Armenia 0-1 Greece (31/05; Friendly)
Poland 1-1 Greece (08/06; Euro 2012)

Czech Republic:
Czech Republic 2-1 Israel (26/05; Friendly)
Czech Republic 1-2 Hungary (01/06; Friendly)
Russia 4-1 Czech Republic (08/06; Euro 2012)

Players to watch

Greece – Dimitris Salpigidis: The PAOK Salonkia forward’s match-changing performance from the substitutes’ bench against Poland assures him a start against the Czech Republic. The off-the-ball movement Salpingidis showed against the hosts is likely to trouble a Czech defence which looked weak against the Russians.

Czech Republic – Theodor Gebre Selassie: The Slovan Liberec full back impressed in his country’s opener against Russia with his buccaneering surges from right-back. Against a Greece team who get numbers behind the ball, the extra width he gives his side could be the key to breaking through the opposition rearguard.

Match Prediction

A match involving two sides who do not scores too many goals is unlikely to be a seven-goal thrillier. Greece showed great team spirit to get back into the game against Poland, and this surely makes the 2004 winners favourites to grab a slender one goal victory against a Czech team still deflated from the Russia result.

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