Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Euro 2012 Preview – Group A

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoWith the 2012 UEFA European Championships due to begin this coming Friday, Stoppage Time takes a look at all four groups going into the tournament. First up is Group A which includes tournament co-hosts Poland as well as the Czech Republic, Russia and Euro 2004 winners Greece.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Best Performance = Winners 1976 (as Czechoslovakia); Runner Up 1996 (as Czech Republic)

The Czechs have a distinguished record in the European Championships. In 1976, as part of Czechoslovakia, they won the trophy following a penalty shoot-out victory over West Germany. In the post-independence period, the Czechs reached the final of Euro ’96 but were thwarted by Oliver Bierhoff’s Golden Goal winner in extra-time. They are far from fancied to get anywhere near the final this time around but have a reasonable chance of reaching the quarter-finals. The Czech Republic qualified for this tournament finishing in second place in Group I behind runaway leaders Spain and then negotiating their way through a play-off against Montenegro. If the Czechs are to progress far in the tournament much will rest on the shoulders of Euro 2004 top scorer Milan Baroš in what is expected to be his last international tournament. At the back UEFA Champions League winner Petr Čech will be instrumental in keeping what could be a potentially brittle defensive line in check.

COACH: Michal Bílek

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 26

GREECE: Best Performance = Winners 2004

The Greeks stunned Europe when winning this competition in 2004, defeating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final in Lisbon. They had seldom qualified for the tournament before their unexpected victory and failed to get beyond the group stage in 2008. Nevertheless the Greeks will fancy their chances of progressing this time in what is arguably the weakest group of the competition. Greece came top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group F with an unbeaten record and clinched the group with a two point margin ahead of Croatia. If Greece are to reach the group stages then the experience of Euro 2004 winner and captain Giorgos Karagounis will prove to be crucial whilst striker Theofanis Gekas will hope to keep up his impressive goal scoring record for his country.

COACH: Fernando Santos

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 14

POLAND: Best Performance = Group Stage 2008

It is something of a mystery that a country which has finished in third place on two occasions in the FIFA World Cup has only ever been able to qualify for the European Championship just once. The Poles made their debut in this competition four years ago and finished bottom of a group containing Germany, Croatia and co-hosts Austria. This year’s tournament co-hosts expect to do better this time around with the trio of players from Borussia Dortmund – Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Błaszczykowski and Łukasz Piszczek – hoping to transfer their fantastic form at club level into success at international level.

COACH: Franciszek Smuda

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 65

RUSSIA: Best Performance = Winners 1960 (as Soviet Union); Semi-Finals 2008 (as Russia)

As a member of the former Soviet Union, the Russians were part of the country to be crowned inaugural European champions when they defeated Yugoslavia 2-1 in the 1960 final played in Paris. Three further finals were played in 1964, 1972 and 1988 as part of the Soviet Union but they all ended in defeat. Since independence the Russian national team has qualified for all but one of the European Championships since 1992 but only got beyond the group stage on one occasion in 2008. The Russians lost out to eventual winners Spain and any repetition of four years would represent a good tournament this time. Russia qualified for the tournament after finishing top of qualifying Group B two points ahead of the Republic of Ireland. Forward Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has won back-to-back domestic league titles with Zenit Saint Petersburg, looks set to be Russia’s most influential player.

COACH: Dick Advocaat

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 11

GROUP A FIXTURES

08/06/12 Poland v Greece

08/06/12 Russia v Czech Republic

12/06/12 Greece v Czech Republic

12/06/12 Poland v Russia

16/06/12 Poland v Czech Republic

16/06/12 Greece v Russia

Eastern Europe: Season Review (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 27, 2010

It has been another eventful season in eastern European football with some established powers such as Crvena Zvezda and Dinamo Zagreb adding to their list of historical successes along with some of the game’s new powers such as MŠK Žilina and CFR Cluj continuing to upset the old guard in their respective countries. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the end of season in many of eastern Europe’s most prestigious league and cup competitions:

ROMANIA (CFR Cluj 34 games/69 points; Unirea Urziceni 34/66; FC Vaslui 34/62)

CFR Cluj won their second ever Romanian Liga I title by scraping over the line from 2008-09 champions Unirea Urziceni with a final day 4-2 victory over already relegated Ceahlaul Piatra Niamt. For the Transylvanian club it was their second title in three years – their maiden title came in the 2007-08 season – and they followed it up on Wednesday evening with their first ever Romanian league and cup double but only after surviving the lottery of a penalty shoot-out over cup final opponents FC Vaslui after the game remained goalless after extra-time. CFR Cluj enter the group stage of next season’s UEFA Champions League whilst Unirea must undergo a play-off to qualify for the group stage. FC Vaslui enter the UEFA Europa League along with Steaua Bucharest, FC Timişoara and Dinamo Bucharest.

POLAND (Lech Poznań 30/65; Wisła Kraków 30/62; Ruch Chorzów 30/53)

Lech Poznań won their first league title since 1993 having pipped defending champions Wisła Kraków to the post by three points. Lech defeated Zagłębie Lubin by two goals to nil on the final day to make sure of their sixth Ekstraklasa title but their nearest challengers could only draw 1-1 at home to Odra Wodzisław Śląski so the trophy would’ve gone to Poznań in any case. In the Polish Cup final Ruch Chorzów’s chances of winning a trophy to add to their third place league finish were dashed by outsiders Jagiellonia Białystok – a club featured in Stoppage Time’s Away Days section earlier this season – who won 1-0 thanks to an Adrius Skrela goal in the 49th minute gifting Jagiellonia their first major honour in Polish football.

See Lech clinch the title HERE:

CROATIA (Dinamo Zagreb 30/62; Hajduk Split 30/58; Cibalia 30/57)

The league table looks a lot closer than the championship race actually was with Dinamo Zagrab winning their fifth consecutive Prva HNL title with four games to spare. On Matchday 26 of the campaign Dinamo drew with local neighbours NK Zagreb 1-1 and the point took Dinamo twelve points clear of Hadjuk Split and a goal difference over thirty goals better off. Hajduk did gain some consolation in the Croatian Cup after a convincing 4-1 aggregate win over NHK Šibenik in the two-legged final. Dinamo must take part in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League next season whilst Hajduk, Cibalia and NHK Šibenik enter the UEFA Europa League.

SERBIA (Partizan 30/78; Crvena Zvezda 30/71; OFK Beograd 30/50)

Serbia’s very own Old Firm continue to fight it out between them in the SuperLiga with the black and white of Partizan continuing to maintain domestic dominance after securing their third consecutive title with a game to spare. The important match came in Matchday 28 when Partizan beat their old rivals Crvena Zvezda 1-0 thanks to a Radosav Petrović strike late in the game to give the home side a four point cushion with two games left. That victory gave Partizan the psychological edge and they secured the championship with a 3-0 win over third place OFK Beograd on Matchday 29. Crvena Zvezda did, however, manage to claim the Serbian Cup with a convincing 3-0 win over Vojvodina Novi Sad thanks to goals from Aleksandar Jevtić, Kadu and Miloš Trifunović. See highlights of the Serbian Cup final HERE:

CZECH REPUBLIC (Sparta Prague 30/62; Jablonec 30/61; Banik Ostrava 30/60)

The Czech Gambrinus Liga came to an exciting climax this season with just a point separating the top three teams going into the final matchday of the season. Sparta were the favourites going into the final game as their goal difference was five better than Banik Ostrava’s so Sparta had to match their result in order to claim the title. Jablonec were waiting in the wings in the event that both of the others slipped up but, in the end, Sparta did a professional job in beating fourth place FK Teplice 1-0. In the event Banik could only draw away to 1.FK Příbram whilst Jablonec stole second spot with a 2-0 home win over Dynamo České Budějovice. Sparta enter the UEFA Champions League at the second qualifying round next season. FK Jablonec had the chance of some silverware in the Czech Cup but were made to pay by a determined FC Viktoria Plzeň side who were the better side on the day to claim the cup thanks to a 2-1 win and claim the final UEFA Europa League place.

BULGARIA (Litex Lovech 30/70; CSKA Sofia 30/58; Levski Sofia 30/57)

The big two of Bulgarian football could only watch as Litex Lovech strolled to their third A PFG title with a twelve point cushion from nearest challengers CSKA at the end of the season. Matchday 28 saw Litex clinch the league championship thanks to a 3-0 win against Lokomotive Plovdiv and a place in the second qualfying round of the UEFA Champions League awaits the Lovech based side. CSKA and Levski have struggled by their usual high standards with neither gaining any consolation in the domestic cup which was won for the first time by PFC Beroe Stara Zagora in a 1-0 win over surprise finalists Chernomorets Pomorie from the second tier of Bulgarian football.

HUNGARY (Debreceni VSC 30/62; Videoton FC 30/61; Győri ETO 30/57)

Debreceni VSC continue to be the dominant force in Hungarian football although this title wasn’t as comfortable as any of their previous four championship wins. DVSC were separated from nearest challengers Videoton FC by a solitary point going into the final set of league matches. But, in an unbelieveable climax to the season, Debreceni sensationally lost 1-0 away to mid-table Kecskeméti TE to leave their title defence hanging in the balance. Fortunately for DVSC third place Győri ETO did their bit to help the champions by beating Videoton FC 1-0 to provide the championship with a grandstand finish. Perhaps buoyed by the excitement Debreceni VSC claimed a double triumph by defeating Zalaegerszegi TE 3-2 in an exciting cup final. Watch Debreceni’s final day defeat and subsequent title celebrations here:

SLOVAKIA (MŠK Žilina 33/73; Slovan Bratislava 33/70; Dukla Banská Bystrica 33/56)

MŠK Žilina secured their fifth Corgoň Liga title on the penultimate matchday of the season when defeating DAC Dunajská Streda 4-0 at home whilst Slovan Bratislava, five points behind going into the same round of matches, were also winning at home, in their case 2-0 against third placed Dukla Banská Bystrica. The gap going into the final set of matches was too big for Slovan to bridge and gave the eastern Slovakian side the championship. Slovan, arguably the biggest and most famous club in Slovakia, did gain some consolation with an impressive 6-0 thumping of hapless opponents Spartak Trnava in the Slovakian Cup final.

SLOVENIA (Koper 36/73; Maribor 36/62; Gorica 36/55)

FC Koper were this season’s dominant force in Slovenian football claiming their maiden championship in fine style. FC Koper secured the league championship trophy with four matches left to play when gaining an unassailable lead after their Matchday 32 win over Rudar Velenje. This result, coupled with a draw for NK Maribor at home to NK Domžale, provided a fifteen point cushion with four games left and the side from south west Slovenia, close to the Italian border, will experience their first taste of UEFA Champions League football next season. NK Maribor did gain some success in the domestic cup final though after beating NK Domžale in a closely fought encounter by three goals to two. David Bunderla scored the winning goal in the last minute of extra-time to give NK Maribor their sixth success in the Pokal Hervis.