The Czechs are 13/10 for Tuesday’s matchup against the Greeks in Wroclaw.
Something tells us that we're just beginning the ride in Group A as Euro 2012 moves into the second cycle of group play on Tuesday.
A pair of matches are on tap as Russia looks to sew up a spot in the knockout phase when it faces co-host Poland at noisy Warsaw, while the Czech Republic could be on the verge of an early elimination when it faces Greece at Wroclaw. The Group A table shows Russia with good early foot on three points, Poland and Greece level on 1 point after the opening-match draw, with the Czechs on 0 points after the 4-1 lambasting they received from the Russians on Friday.
Following are quick previews for the Tuesday matches.
Greece vs. Czech Republic (at Wroclaw)
The Czechs cannot be as bad as they looked when getting run off of the pitch by Russia...can they?
Oddsmakers apparently don't think so, with the Czech Republic posted as slight 13/10 favorites for this Tuesday tussle in Wroclaw, and the take-back on the Greeks at 23/10. The draw is temptingly priced at 11/5 for the noon (ET) kickoff, with TV coverage in the states provided by ESPN.
The questions have to be asked about the Czech defense, and Chelsea goalie Petr Cech, after Russia tore the Czechs to pieces on Friday. This is a major concern for Michal Bilek's squad which considered its reargaurd, and Cech, a supposed strength heading into Poland and Ukraine.
Moreover, Arsenal's midfield maestro Tomas Rosicky hardly looked 100 percent, suggesting health concerns. There was certainly no resemblance to the Rosicky we remember once upon a time from Euro 2004. There is simply not yet any evidence that the Czechs are beyond their goal-scoring concerns.
Meanwhile, Greece can feel satisfied yet at the same time disappointed by the 1-1 opening draw with Poland. Satisfied that it demonstrated it could open up and play with its foot on the pedal if needed. Disappointed that it let a chance at three points slip away when Giorgioa Karagounis, one of the remnants from the magical 2004, saw his spot-kick saved by reserve Polish keeper Przemyslaw Tyton in the second half.
Credit Greek coach Fernando Santos for effectively altering his tactics, specifically inserting PAOK forward Dimitris Salpigidis for the disappointing Sotiris Ninis. This seemed to spark Greece in the opener and suggests a better tactical idea moving forward, or at least an upgrade from the poor imitation of Otto Rehhagel's championship side from eight years ago. Playing a defensive style is only good if your side can defend, something Santos must have acknowledged after watching the opener.
Still, we are not ready to bury the Czechs just yet. A normal Petr Cech performance keeps Greece at bay. As long as the Czechs can conspire to create at least one goal, they'll get a result, and perhaps a win.
Russia vs. Poland (at Warsaw)
Just as we're not sure that the Czechs are as bad as they looked vs. Russia, we're not sure the Russians are as good as they looked in the opener, either.
Poland? Still deciding what to make of the co-hosts after a Jekyll-and-Hyde effort in the draw vs. Greece.
European wagering outlets, however, seem to need less convincing about the Russians than we do, reflected in their 13/10 win price. The take-back on the Poles is at 9/4, the same price as the draw for the 2:45 p.m. (ET) kickoff at National Stadium.
We suspect it was more a case of the Czechs not being able to effectively finish some good chances than any Russian superiority in Friday's opener. There look to be plenty of holes in the Russia defense just waiting to be exploited. The question remains if Poland is up to the task.
The Poland we saw in the first half of the Greek opener is certainly up to it, especially if Bordeaux midfield pilot Ludovic Obraniak pulls the strings effectively as he did in the opener. Along with the Borussia Dortmund contingent, including target-man Robert Lewandowski (Poland's scorer in the opener) and winger Jakub Blaszcykowski, we suspect the Poles can punish the Russian defense.
Our concern, however, is how Poland seemed to stop performing once Greece began to play on its front foot. The sendng off of Arsenal goalie Wojciech Szczesny, reminiscent of his miscue in last year's Carling Cup final, in fact provided the most-dramatic moment of the first cycle of matches when backup Przemyslaw Tyton stopped Giorgios Karagiunis' spot-kick immediately upon his entrance.
The Poles lose little with Tyton in goal. And if Obraniak dazzles the slower Russian defense and outshines counterpart Andrei Arshavin, we think the hosts provide very good value at 9/4.