If Group B, which consists of Germany, Portugal and Holland, is being regarded as the “group of death”, then Group A can boast the complete opposite. The group of breath, you could say: or maybe not.
Not that Russia, Poland, Czech Republic and Greece are complaining. For two of these sides the path to the quarter finals looks exceptionally rosy, and when reaching knock-out stages of a tournament, anything is possible. However, the qualifiers from Group B will be waiting for them in the quarter finals – where they will go into the game as huge underdogs, unless Denmark defy their odds and upset the applecart in the “group of death”.
Despite the rather weak look to the group, between them, their recent European Championship pedigree is actually rather fruitful. Russia, aided by the some wonderful individual performances by Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko, made the semi-finals in 2008 whilst who can forget the Karel Poborský inspired Czech Republic that reached the final in 1996 before being beaten by Germany. Greece even managed to win the whole thing in 2004, so maybe pundits and fans alike are underestimating and do a bit of a disservice to the standard of the group.
Betting wise and the markets are seemingly favouring second seeds Russia (6/4 Coral) as the most likely winners of the group but in truth there isn’t much discrepancy between all four of the teams.
Host nation Poland (100/30 Paddy Power) have the added variable of the home fans on their side whilst the layers are keen to keep both Czech Republic (4/1 Ladbrokes) and Greece (9/2 Paddy Power) on their side by keeping their prices relatively skinny.
As the markets suggest it really is a group where anything can happen.
Where does the value lie then? Well, in truth the markets have got it all rather spot on in terms of the win market as Russia have the most potent weapons in their armoury and are right to be heading the markets, but there could be a little bit of juice in the price regarding Poland making a play for qualification from the group.
As co-hosts Poland have the added variable of home support on their side, which has paid dividends in past tournaments in bringing out improvement in so-called mediocre international sides.
South Korea are perhaps the greatest example of such an occurrence in the 2002 World Cup, where they made the semi-finals aided heavily by a referee decision here and there, which is always a bonus, along with fanatical home support.
The 2004 European Championship also brought about an improvement in the fortunes of host nation Portugal, who only were denied by Greece in their bid to become the first host nation to win a European Championship since France in 1984.
Obviously, Poland are unlikely to match the achievements of France or Portugal in that department as they are very limited in the quality of their footballers but there is every chance that the host nation certainly have enough quality to progress from a very weak group. Although they haven’t played a competitive international match now for nearly three years, they have been quietly going about their business in their warm-up matches.
A 2-2 draw against Germany last September is perhaps the standout considering the talent of the German side, but their overall record of just two defeats in their last 19 matches is a fine record to brag about going into major tournament no matter if the games were deemed competitive or not.
They are bound to be hard to break down and although they do lack firepower in the final third, the evens with a variety of bookmakers should be the bet punters should latch onto in Group A.