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Russia - Czech Republic Preview: Advocaat's side commence Euro 2012 campaign in Wroclaw
Semi-finalists four years ago in Austria & Switzerland, the Dutch coach will be hoping his team can start Group A positively against Michal Bilek's men
By Mohammed Ali
Anyukov, Igna'vich, Berezutskiy, Zhirkov
Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov
Dzagoev, Kerzhakov, Arshavin
Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Rajtoral
Rezek, Rosicky, Pilar
Russia coach Dick Advocaat is sweating on the fitness of goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev ahead of the Group A opener against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw on Friday.
The 26-year-old did not train with the rest of the group on Tuesday after a flare-up of the knee injury which plagued the CSKA Moscow goalkeeper for much of last season. Though Akinfeev did feature for 45 minutes in Russia's 3-0 victory over Italy in Zurich last Friday, Zenit's Vyacheslav Malafeev will be on standby should the former fail a late fitness test.
Marat Izmailov and Alexander Anyukov have both overcome knocks to feature, though the former could well lose out to Alan Dzagoev for a starting berth.
Czech Republic's only doubt centres around the fitness of Milan Baros. The Galatasaray forward did not train on Wednesday under the advice of the medical team, but should be able to feature against the Russians.
Should the 30-year-old not make it, either Tomas Necid or Tomas Pekhart could assume the role of centre-forward as Michal Bilek's side aim for the best possible start at Euro 2012.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Russia commence their Euro 2012 quest unbeaten in their last 14 games, culminating in the 3-0 win over Italy on Friday.
- Of the 23-man squad at Advocaat's disposal, 11 appeared at Euro 2008 where Russia reached the semi-finals, whilst seven also featured at Euro 2004.
- Russia have the oldest forwards in the tournament with an average age of 30, in stark contrast to England (23) and Poland (24).
- Advocaat's side conceded just four goals in Euro 2012 qualifying, on their way to topping Group B ahead of Republic of Ireland.
- Czech Republic qualified for Euro 2012 by narrowly edging out Scotland to finish second in Group I, before beating Montenegro 3-0 in the play-offs.
- However, coach Bilek - who will make his tournament debut as national team boss on Friday - oversaw the 2-1 defeat to Hungary in their final international friendly.
- Five members of the squad are set to play in their third successive European Championship.
- Milan Baros (pictured right) was top scorer at Euro 2004 in Portugal with five goals - no player has won the Golden Boot twice in European Championship history. The striker is 8/1 to score the first goal when the Czech Republic take on Russia with Paddy Power.
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Top 3 Predictions
Russia 2-1 Czech Rep.
- 19.61 %
Russia 2-0 Czech Rep.
- 14.3 %
Russia 1-1 Czech Rep.
- 11.53 %
|Euro 2012 (EC)||Jun 8, 2012||Russia 4 - Czech Rep. 1|
|Mar 25, 2013||Brazil 1 - Russia 1||FR|
|Feb 6, 2013||Iceland 0 - Russia 2||FR|
|Nov 14, 2012||Russia 2 - United States 2||FR|
|Oct 16, 2012||Russia 1 - Azerbaijan 0||WCQ|
|Oct 12, 2012||Russia 1 - Portugal 0||WCQ|
|Returns:||Russia £25.00||Sign up with bet365 for a free bet up to £200|
|Returns:||Draw £50.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Czech Republic £260.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|-||Marat Nailevich Izmailov|
|2||Theodor Gebre Selassie||Defender|
The Russia captain was one of the stars of the tournament four years ago in Austria and Switzerland despite the fact that he was suspended for the first two games. In the years since, the dimunitive forward has seen his Arsenal career stall, and after a move back to his homeland with Zenit, Arshavin will be hoping to emulate his form with the national team. Starting Euro 2012 from the opening game, the skipper will want to prove some doubters wrong with an eye-catching display.
|Theodor Gebre Selassie|
The first black player to play for the Czech Republic, Gebre Selassie has been tipped for a move abroad should he shine for Michal Bilek's men at Euro 2012. The 25-year-old, who plies his trade with Slovan Liberec, is an adventurous right-back who will be seeking to attack with every opportunity. Whilst the Czechs stalled at Euro 2008, Selassie will be hoping to restore the pride of the nation that dazzled eight years ago in Portugal.
Russia should be able to commence their Euro 2012 campaign with victory, given the gulf in talent between the two sides. Semi-finalists just four years ago, Advocaat's men have looked impressive recently, with the 3-0 friendly victory over Italy testament to what they could do against a footballing superpower.