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Euro 2012 - Group A Matchday 3 Recap

Narrow victories for the Czech Republic and Greece dump Poland and Russia out of Euro 2012

Group A

Group A was anything but straightforward heading into match day three but few people would have predicted the final outcome which saw the Czech Republic and Greece both qualify for the knockout stages.

Indeed, Russia looked nailed on not only to progress but also to threaten the tournament favourites after romping to a 4-1 success against the Czech’s on the opening day.

And their healthy position in Group A was cemented further on match day two after hitting the front against Poland going into the second half.

But even despite Jakub Blaszczykowski’s equaliser in that encounter, Russia only needed a point against Greece on Saturday evening to guarantee qualification for the last eight and defeat may have even been inconsequential had the Czech Republic drawn with Poland.

Nevertheless, against all odds, things completely fell apart for Dick Advocaat’s side who were beaten in Warsaw courtesy of a goal from veteran Giorgos Karagounis on the stroke of half time.

And the Czech Republic’s 1-0 win over Poland meant that both Russia and the co-hosts were dumped out of the competition after assuming favouritism to progress prior to the big kick off on June 8.

The manner of Greece’s success was quite extra ordinary and the scenes at the final whistle mirrored the Hellas celebrations of 2004 when they won the championship as rank outsiders.

And Giorgos Karagounis’ was fittingly the man to deliver after fluffing his lines from the penalty spot in the opening game against Poland.

Perhaps most surprising from a betting perspective was the way the Czech Republic recovered from their match day one mauling against the Russians to top the group with six points.

Michel Bilek’s men drifted out to around 250/1 to win the tournament outright and were written off to escape from what was roundly penned as the weakest group at the championship.

Now, the Czech’s must wait anxiously to find out who they will meet in the last eight as Denmark, Portugal and Holland scrap it out for second place in Group B.

Many neutrals will be hoping that it is the Dutch who prevail, as there have been some epic encounters between Holland and the Czech Republic at past European Championships.

There will be huge disappointment in Poland after the co-hosts waived goodbye to their own tournament however Franciszek Smuda’s side didn’t go down without a fight.

And despite only banking two points in finishing bottom of Group A, the Polish provided some memorable moments and played extremely attractive football, even if their end product was somewhat lacking.

Of course, nothing can be taken for granted in tournament football and it is sheer folly to write off any nation as anything really is possible.

But the Czech Republic and Greece, in particular, will surely be up against things in the quarter-finals.

Indeed, the Germans may well be rubbing their hands together at a potentially soft quarter-final with the Greeks who will have to step up markedly in terms of performance to trouble the three time champions.