Russia Euro 2012 Focus – One point needed

Jakub Blaszczkowski’s spectacular second half strike may have limited the Russians to just a point against Poland in their second Euro 2012 group match, but it seems likely to only delay their qualification to the quarter-finals. Indeed, coach Dick Advocaat has asserted that his team are deserving of progression, having been, in his opinion, the most imposing outfit in the entire tournament so far.

Speaking after the 1-1 draw in Warsaw, Advocaat answered queries about which team he had been most impressed with by saying: “It has been Russia in terms of football, the way we play.”

Much of that may be down to the relatively sedate group that the Russians found themselves in but credit should still be given for the fluid brand of football which has seen them lead Group A going into the last round of games. A point against the Greeks, who have largely disappointed so far and need to beat Russia, will guarantee progression. A win will secure top spot.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Russian attackers will undoubtedly have been salivating at the thought of facing Greece. A largely ordinary Czech Republic side, who Russia had defeated so convincingly just days earlier, waltzed through the disorganised makeshift defence of their opponents at will, and should have added more to the 2-1 scoreline which ended in their favour.

The front three of Andrey Arshavin, Alan Dzagoev and Alexander Kerzhakov have looked bright – though the latter has been profligate and is yet to find the net or even hit the target. On paper, it is difficult to see how Greece can not only stop that trio, but also possess the shrewdness and guile going forward to deny Russia progress.

The only downside to the opening week of the tournament from Russia’s point of view, aside from the conceding of Blaszczkowski’s effort, is the behaviour of the fans. Having already been under investigation after a section of its supporters beat match stewards after the opening day victory over Czech Republic, the Russian Football Federation were given further headaches. There were clashes between Russia and Poland fans in Warsaw, while Russians inside the ground unveiled a huge provocative flag which read ‘This Is Russia’.

As a result of the Czech Republic violence, UEFA have handed out a ruthless punishment – a suspended six point deduction to come into effect in the next European Championships qualification campaign. It is yet to be seen whether the subsequents events in Warsaw will trigger this penalty but it would already prove almost fatal to Russia’s chances of qualifying for France 2016.

A statement from the Russian Football Federation read: “In these days, as never before, the Russian team needs the support of its fans, who are the best in the world – not hooligans putting their own interests above the interests of the national team.

It would be a shame if the actions of the hooligans were to overshadow what could be a very successful tournament on the pitch.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Greece v Russia

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