Russia are all set to pull a few surprises in Euro 2012. Dutchman Dick Advocaat is the coach of the side. He is highly rated in the world of football, known as an astute strategist. His CV is quite impressive, having led Netherlands to the quarter-finals and semi-finals in the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2004 respectively.
The Russians have an envious record in the tournament's history. They won the first edition back in 1960 and finished runners-up in 1962, 1972 and 1988. In the last edition in 2008, they reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champions Spain.
Their qualifying campaign this time was quite impressive. Out of 10 ties, they won seven, lost one, while two ended in a draw. However, their opponents in Group B were not challenging. Andorra, Slovakia, Republic of Ireland, Macedonia and Armenia don't hold much threat for a team as seasoned as Russia, but the Russians should be complimented to keep complacency at bay all through.
One again their trump card would be Andrei Arshawin. The striker has been a bit off the boil of late. After a long run of poor form with Arsenal for the most part of this season he moved to Zenit St Petersburg in the January transfer window. He may not be at his best right now but quality is quality and he is full of quality. He remains a threat for the other teams in Group A. These teams are co-hosts Poland, 2004 champions Greece and Czech Republic. Poland won't be much of a threat but they have to be wary of the Greeks and the Czech.
Advocaat's likely formation is expected to be 4-4-2. Alexander Anyukov, Alexei Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich and Yuri Zhirkov are certain to make up the back line with Roman Shirokov, Konstantin Zyryanov Igor, Denisov and Alan Dzagoev taking care of the midfield and feeding Arshawin and Alexander Kerzhakov up front.
The Russians mesmerised the 2006 World Cup winners Italy in their last warm-up on Friday with a 3-0 win. That's Russia for you. They may not be as consistent as other teams in the tournament but on their day they are capable of catching even the best of outfits on the hop. Their challenge can't be belittled.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeyev, Vyacheslav Malafeyev, Anton Shunin
Defenders: Alexander Anyukov, Alexei Berezutsky, Sergei Ignashevich, Roman Sharonov, Vladimir Granat, Kirill Nababkin, Yuri Zhirkov
Midfielders: Igor Denisov, Roman Shirokov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Alan Dzagoyev, Igor Semshov, Denis Glushakov, Marat Izmailov, Dmitry Kombarov
Forwards: Andrei Arshavin, Alexander Kerzhakov, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Alexander Kokorin, Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Recent Euro performances:
2008 Eliminated in semif-finals
2004 Eliminated in group stage
2000 Did not qualify
1996 Eliminated in group stage
Keep an eye on: Andrei Arshavin, Alan Dzagovev
Prediction: > Russia are not outright favourites but can go as far as the semi-finals.
June 8, 2012: vs Czech Republic
June 12, 2012: vs Poland
June 16, 2012: vs Greece