High Hopes for Russian National Team at Euro 2012 Championship
Comments by soccer experts and opposing managers have marked the Russian team as the favorite to win their group.
Published: June 6, 2012 (Issue # 1711)
Sixteen national soccer teams and thousands of fans will descend on Ukraine and Poland’s biggest cities this week for the start of the Euro 2012 soccer championship Friday.
The largest European celebration of the sport occurs every four years, drawing in soccer purists and laymen alike across the continent in a three-week-long sporting bonanza marked by color, passion, and cultural diversity.
The Russian national team, ranked 11th best in the world, goes into the tournament with high hopes after a 3-0 win against Italy in their last warm up game to the tournament. Their campaign kicks off on the opening day at 10:45 p.m. Moscow time against the Czech Republic, which ranks 26th. Other group opponents are 14th ranked Greece, and co-hosts Poland, ranked 65th.
Recent comments by a number of soccer experts and opposing managers have marked the Russian team as the favorite to win their group. The players, however, will do well to fear complacency, as a shock defeat against Slovenia ended Russia’s hopes of participation in the 2010 World Cup.
It was that defeat that prompted the sacking of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, who led Russia to a lauded bronze medal at the previous tournament in 2008. Hiddink was replaced by his compatriot, Dick Advocaat. Though Advocaat has already announced his resignation from the team, he has set his eyes on the ultimate prize, stating in a recent televised interview that the team’s goal is to win the tournament.
Known as “The Little General” for his tactical nous and authoritative man-management, the Dutchman previously spent three years in the Russian Premier League in charge of FC Zenit St. Petersburg, leading them to a League trophy, Super Cup, and UEFA Cup victory.
Petersburgers will have plenty to cheer for in the coming weeks, with up to seven starting squad players coming from the city’s club, dominating the mid-field and attacking positions. This year’s Russian Premier League winners will hope to replicate their success on the international stage, and their interplay will be the crucial factor in determining Russia’s performance.
Thousands of Russian fans are expected to cheer them on in nearby Poland, hoping that they live up to the hype, while doing their best to forget the disaster of 2010.