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The Group of Shocks - Russia go from contenders to casualties as Greece & Czechs celebrate

Czech Republic and Greece have qualified for the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 after a thrilling finale to Group A.

Petr Jiracek was on target for the Czech Republic as they edged Poland 1-0 to seal top spot in the section, while in the other fixture, Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis netted the only goal of the game to send Dick Advocaat's men, tipped as dark horses, home early.

Co-hosts Poland have been eliminated together with Russia, who lost out on a place in the next round due to their loss in the direct duel with Fernando Santos' men.'s Group A team experts have their say following an unpredictable night of action.

1   CZECH REPUBLIC 3 2 0 1 -1 6
3 1 1 1 0 4
3   RUSSIA 3 1 1 1 +2 4
4   POLAND 3 0 2 1 -1 2
 Mark Smith
 Czech Republic Expert Follow on

The Czech Republic played their part in a dramatic final day of Group A, as they turned in an impressive performance against a Poland side that had the rest of Europe rooting for them.

To beat the co-hosts in such a hostile atmosphere whilst missing the talismanic Tomas Rosicky should be seen as a wonderful achievement for this group of players.

Coach Michal Bilek must also be feeling a massive sense of vindication after drawing fierce criticism for the naive showing against Russia. Progression to the quarter-finals will be seen as a success for the Czech Republic, especially given the fact they topped the group after such a humbling from Group A favourites, Russia.

This relatively inexperienced group of players, Rosicky and Petr Cech aside, can take momentum and confidence from their victories over Greece and now Poland.

The Czechs are growing into this tournament and deserve all of the plaudits coming their way. Although it's too early to speculate who their next opponents will be, they look likely to avoid a German team packed with world class players.

The Czech fans will be praying that Rosicky is able to take to the field in next week's quarter final – after suffering an achilles injury against Greece.

Before Saturday night's decider, Theo Gebre Selassie said: “It is the biggest game of my career". The Czech right back and his team-mates certainly put in a giant performance.

 Mike Paterakis
 Greece Expert Follow on

Playing against the odds is always Greece's favourite game and the Russians paid the price for not respecting it.

The very same team that conceded three ridiculous goals against Poland and Czech Republic at the beginning of their first two Group A matches, committed the same mistakes early on against Russia.

However, Dick Advocaat's men failed to take advantage, and Giorgos Karagounis made them pay just before half time. The veteran, the second oldest player to score at the tournament after Andriy Shevchenko, has the same thirst as eight years ago when he was one of the cornerstones in Greece's unbelievable triumph in Portugal.

One mistake from the Russian defence was enough for him. It was a special moment for the captain, who redeemed himself for his missed penalty against Poland.

Thereafter it was relatively straightforward for Fernando Santos' men, who took a copy out of Otto Rehhagel's book by putting 10 men behind the ball, closing the space, and only attacking on the counter.

On one such break, Karagounis was denied a clear penalty and unjustly booked for diving - meaning he will miss a probable quarter-final against Germany - while another refereeing decision went against them when Yuri Zhirkov escaped a red card for simulation. In the end, though, no one could steal Greece's glory as they earned their most famous result since Lisbon in 2004.

 Max de Haldevang
 Russia Expert Follow on

'From the sublime to the ridiculous' is a phrase overused in sports journalism but it accurately describes Russia’s journey out of this tournament.

A scintillating 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic had European clubs purring over the likes of Alan Dzagoev, and this author writing that Russia would almost certainly top the group.

But a mediocre draw against Poland followed, as events on the pitch were overshadowed by fan violence and the team began to tire worryingly after an arduous 18 month season.

Despite many of the players and coaching staff asserting that they were in great shape, they looked exhausted and bereft of ideas against Greece and the 1-0 scoreline belied how poor they really were. The players who have shone in the build-up – Andrei Arshavin, Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov – looked lost and resorted to vague pot-shots from outside the box.

Coach Dick Advocaat leaves now to join PSV, and the team left behind is an ageing one that should have reached its prime at this tournament. The Dutchman had gained some kudos in the Russian press with the wins over Italy and Czech Republic but the nickname of 'lame duck' is certain to return in the tournament’s aftermath.

Whoever takes over the team – and many want a Russian to do the job – will be faced with the task of clearing out the old players and rebuilding a team around the young talent of Dzagoev, Denis Glushakov and Alexander Kokorin.

 Ryan Hubbard
 Poland Expert Follow on

Where did it go wrong for Poland?

Was it the second half performance against Greece? Was it Wojciech Szczesny's catastrophic mistake and sending off? Was it an inability to put away the many chances against Russia? Was it the failure to create decent chances against the Czechs? Either way, it was another three games in the European Championships which the Biale-Orly were unable to pick up maximum points.

Whilst the Russians and Greeks attacked Poland's weaker left-side, Czech coach Michal Bilek seemed to get his tactics right in the second half. By pushing Vaclav Pilar higher up the left-side of the field and forcing Lukasz Piszczek to concentrate on defending, he almost nullified the right back's ability to assist in the Polish attack.

With Poland also unable to string passes together comfortably in the middle of the park, and Robert Lewandowski crowded out by the Czech defence, the co-hosts just couldn't create anything meaningful.

Maybe the pressure finally got to Franciszek Smuda's side, or maybe they were just incapable of living up to the hype which surrounded them ahead of the competition. Either way, the footballing side of Euro 2012 will now always be looked back upon by Polish fans as large portions of frustration interspersed with side helpings of elation.