As the pre-tournament friendlies come to a close this evening, we’re taking a look at the last few weeks’ worth of action in a group-by-group rundown. Analysing the results, lineups and injury worries, we reflect on each nation’s respective performances and look for potential signs of starting XIs ahead of Friday’s big kick-off…
Michal Bilek’s side were relatively unimpressive in their recent couple of friendlies. The Czech Republic boss rested a handful of regulars as his side struggled past Israel 2-1, before losing out to Hungary last Friday by the same scoreline.
What’s particularly worrying from an attacking perspective is that two of their three goals came from the penalty spot; left-back Michal Kadlec netted against Hungary, while Milan Baros slotted home in the Israel encounter, with the former handed the day off. Baros also provided the assist for Kadlec’s goal, while David Lafata climbed off the bench to net the winner against Israel. Kadlec’s penalty duties have clearly caught the eye of Fantasy managers – despite a price of 5.5 in the McDonald’s game, he has an 8.4% ownership, the second most popular player in his national side.
Tomas Rosicky’s return to fitness is crucial to his side’s chances. The Arsenal man has failed to feature in the recent friendlies due to a calf problem but has been passed fit and will start against Russia in their opener on Friday. Playing in the hole in a 4-2-3-1, his creativity may well be the difference between a place in the final eight and an early exit and, with 18.7% ownership in the McDonald’s game, he’s by far their most popular asset.
Elsewhere, there are issues at centre-half; Kadlec was fielded there for the Hungary game, with Tomas Sivok and Roman Hubnik handed 45 minutes each alongside him, allowing David Limbersky a chance at left-back. Theodor Gebre Selassie is perhaps the best alternative to Kadlec for those Fantasy managers looking for a cheaper option in the Czech backline, then – the right-back looks nailed on and comes in at 4.5 in the McDonald’s game.
Likely Starting XI: Cech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Hubnik, Kadlec; Plasil, Jiracek; Pilar, Rosicky, Rezek; Baros.
Greece’s couple of recent friendlies summed up their displays in qualification; relatively strong at the back with limited potential going forward. A 1-1 home draw with Slovenia, followed up by a narrow 1-0 win in Armenia, means the Euro 2004 winners have failed to score more than one goal in their last five matches and, while they have conceded more than a single goal just once in their last 21 matches, have returned just two clean sheets in their last eight.
Intriguingly, both Greece’s goals in those recent friendlies came from defenders. Right-back Vasilis Torisidis grabbed the opener in the Slovenia draw before limping off after 23 minutes, while Kyriakos Papadopoulos scored the only goal in the win over Armenia. The Greeks also missed two penalties in the latter game, with Giorgos Samaras and Kostas Katsouranis fluffing their lines from the spot.
Frustratingly for Fantasy managers, there are definite question marks against a couple of the backline. In goal, Konstantinos Chalkias and Michail Sifakis have each been handed a 90 minute run out – while the latter is cheaper in the McDonald’s game with a 4.0 price tag, there are clearly still some doubts here.
Torisidis’ injury has muddied the waters amongst the back-four; the right-back has now recovered and is a nailed-on option but, at 5.5 in the McDonald’s game, is far less appealing than a couple of his team mates. With Torisidis unavailable for the Armenia match, Sokratis Papastathopoulos was shifted from centre-half to right-back as cover – this allowed Kyriakos Papadopoulos (who had missed the previous match with a knock) the chance to slot in alongside Avraam Papadopoulos at centre-half.
In short, then, Fernando Santos hasn’t had a full quota of defenders to choose from in his last two games – Torisidis and Jose Holebas (who comes in at 4.5 in the McDonald’s game) should take the full-back positions but there remains question marks over the two centre-half positions. Kyriakos Papadopoulos is by far the most popular option in the McDonald’s game – priced at 4.5, he currently has an ownership of 17.5% and, despite offering a far greater goal threat that any other Greek defender, cannot be looked upon as nailed-on. Luckily, we should be notified of the Greece lineup prior to Friday’s kick-off and can tinker accordingly.
Santos has fielded the same midfield three in the last two games, though up front, only Theofanis Gekas has started both games. Sotiris Ninis was rested for the Armenia game due to a shoulder problem and is a likely starter in the front three, while the final slot looks to be between Giorgos Samaras and Kostas Fortounis – both started a game apiece in the friendlies.
Likely Starting XI: Chalkias; Torisidis, Papastathopoulos, A Papadopoulos, Holebas; Katsouranis, Maniatis, Karagounis; Ninis, Gekas, Samaras.
The co-hosts won all three of their recent friendly matches and demonstrated their defensive resilience by recording clean sheets in each of those fixtures. Franciszek Smuda’s side notched a couple of 1-0 wins over Latvia and Slovakia before seeing off Andorra 4-0 in their final warm-up match last Saturday.
Their six goals came from different players, with Robert Lewandowski justifying his 22% ownership in the McDonald’s game by netting against Andorra before being subbed off on the hour mark. Jakub Blaszczykowski scored from the penalty spot and continues to look a decent differential with just 3% ownership, while centre-half Damien Perquis also found the net – priced at 4.5, with a mere 1.5% ownership in the McDonald’s game, he offers a cut-price route into a backline that has now gone five matches without conceding.
Having rolled out the same first XI in their previous two matches, Smuda looks to have a settled first-team, making Poland a fairly straightforward side to predict for Fantasy managers. Injury-wise, Perquis was the only concern but overcame an arm injury and has established himself in the heart of defence in Smuda’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system. Aside from the first XI, Adrian Mierzejewski has climbed off the bench in the past couple of matches on the hour mark and looks set to be afforded the role of impact sub.
Likely Starting XI: Szczesny; Piszczek, Perquis, Wasilewski, Boenisch; Polanski, Murawski; Blaszczykowski, Obraniak Rybus; Lewandowski.
Dick Advocaat’s side were unbeaten in their recent three friendly matches, with a couple of draws and a win recorded. Russia were held 1-1 at home by Uruguay and failed to impress in a goalless stalemate with Lithuania, though a 3-0 win over Italy last Friday highlighted their capabilities.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Roman Shirokov were the main protagonists over the trio of matches – both grabbed a couple of goals, while the latter also picked up an assist for Kerzhakov’s opener against Italy. Shirokov’s price of 6.0 in the McDonald’s game looks a steal, given his recent form, though Kerzhakov is also reasonably priced at 8.0 and has a mere 1.9% ownership; he could prove a real differential and strong Group A captaincy alternative to the likes of Lewandowski. It’s worth noting, though, that Advocaat has subbed him off early in Russia’s last couple of matches, with Roman Pavlyuchenko taking his place from the bench.
For Russia, the main concern surrounds the goalkeeper position. Igor Akinfeev looked to have recovered from a long-term knee injury and shared game time with Vyacheslav Malafeev over the friendlies but the former has fluid on his knee and is training alone – doubts are now raised over his availability. First-choice right-back Aleksandr Anyukov and Marat Izmailov both missed the Italy match but are now fully recovered – the latter could face competition from Konstantin Zyryanov for a midfield starting role in Advocaat’s preferred 4-3-3. Alan Dzagoev has now fully recovered from a toe problem and played 85 minutes against the Italians and will surely start on the right of the front three.
Likely Starting XI: Malafeev; Anyukov, Ignashevich, Berezutsky, Zhirkov; Izmailov, Denisov, Shirokov; Dzagoev, Kerzhakov, Arshavin.
Fantasy Football Scout Euro 2012 Leagues
Fantasy Football Scout are running several leagues and tournaments over various games for the Summer tournament…
We’re running two Tournaments in the Picklive game, a free to enter league here and a £5 entry with prize pot league right here. There’s also £2500 in the prize pot for Picklive’s big tournament game.
Our McDonalds UEFA Euro 2012 League code is : 638-996