Today marks the final phase of the first round of group matches with the four teams from Group D squaring off. In the first match, Russia and Spain will play followed by Euro 2004 Champions Greece versus Sweden.
Let’s breakdown the Russia versus Spain match up first.
Russia has lost several players to injury and suspension heading into the group stage. The most important from this group has to be playmaker Andrei Arshavin. The Zenit Saint Petersburg forward is suspended for the first two group matches. He is in excellent form following his club’s run through the 2007-2008 UEFA Cup. Russia will be at a disadvantage without his attacking skill and passing vision against both Spain and Greece.
Spain arrives at Euro 2008 with a bevy of offensive options to choose from. La Roja can count on the likes of Fernando Torres, David Villa, Xavi, and Arsenal wunderkind Cesc Fàbregas. Scoring goals will not be a problem; keeping the opposition from scoring just might be as Spain always finds a way to lose games on the world stage. Will UEFA Euro 2008 be more of the same?
Prediction: Spain 2-1 over Russia
And now on to the Greece versus Sweden match up.
Greece quietly and calmly went about their business at Euro 2004 dispatching several of Europe’s strongest teams. To defeat Portugal twice including in the championship game on Portuguese soil should be noted. Angelos Basinas, a midfielder at Spanish side Mallorca and captain of Greece’s national team, will once again be counted upon. In 2004, he scored and assisted on the game-winning goal in the final. Scoring that game winner was forward Angelos Charisteas who will once again be looked upon to score for Greece.
Sweden’s “golden generation” of players are back again for one last chance at championship glory. Olof Mellberg, Fredrik Ljungberg, Anders Svensson, Niclas Alexandersson, Marcus Allbäck, and the world famous Henrik Larsson helped Sweden qualify for the last several World Cups and UEFA Euro Championships. Sadly, Sweden has not produced too many highpoints from this recent run. This generation has only been able to manufacture three wins in fifteen matches (World Cup and Euros) since 2000. Can Sweden find its way to the semi-finals? While the Swedish golden generation will have some say regarding this question, the answer lies in the play of forward Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Prediction: Sweden & Greece draw 2-2.