Goalmouth Scramble 2012

Analysis and comment on the 2012 European Championships

Goalmouth Scramble 2012: Breaking down the groups - Group A

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The 14th edition of the European Championships kicks off on Saturday morning as Poland and Ukraine play hosts to the best soccer nations in UEFA.

nzherald.co.nz's Cameron McMillan takes a look at the four groups and how the first stage could play out. Today: Group A.

GROUP A
Poland (FIFA ranking: 65, UEFA ranking: 28)
Greece (14, 8)
Russia (11, 6)
Czech Republic (26, 15)

Breakdown:
Arguably the weakest group in the tournament with no teams ranked in the world's top 10, however Group A does feature three previous champions - Greece (2004), Czech Republic (1976), as Czechoslovakia and Russia (1960), as Soviet Union. It will be Poland's second ever European Championships having only qualified for the first time four years ago when they picked up a solitary point after a draw with Austria. Meanwhile the Czech Republic will be hard to score against with the world's best keeper Petr Cech in goal.

Favourite:
Russia - As Winston Churchill famously said 73 years ago "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma". Semifinalists four years ago Russia cruised into this year's tournament after topping a very weak qualifying group which contained Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Armenia, Macedonia and Andorra.

Ask any disgruntled Arsenal or Tottenham fan whether Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko will be reliable in front of goal and you'll probably get the same answer but the duo were key in the side's run in 2008 when they finished second in their group including a 1-0 win over Greece, a 2-0 win over Sweden and a 3-1 extratime victory over Netherlands in the quarterfinals.

Russia have a knack of beating up on the little guys but struggling against the bigger nations and really are the best of a bad bunch in this group. With the winner of Group A facing the second-placed side from a stacked Group B in the quarterfinals - don't expect Russia, or any teams from Group A for that matter, to reach the semifinals.

Dark horse:
Greece - Also topped a weak qualifying group. They may have to share boots due to austerity measures but that could bring the team together.

Fixture of the group:
Poland v Greece June 9: The opening match of the tournament will provide a gauge of what to expect from this group.

TAB odds - to win group/win tournament:
Russia $2.20/$18
Poland $3.60/$40
Czech Republic $4.25/$50
Greece $7.00/$100

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