I have half jokingly suggested that Poland would win the tournament come July, and even though this may seem like a ludicrous prediction, there are some reasons to suggest that Franciszek Smuda's team could do surprisingly well. Firstly, they are hosts, and will be playing each of their group games with a massive home following that could prove vital for moral. We have seen how important this advantage can be during such tournaments as the 2002 World Cup with South Korea and 2004 with Portugal, who both successfully reached the semi finals (but whether the case will be the same for Poland remains to be seen). Furthermore, they do have some high pedigree players in their ranks. Bundesliga winning duo Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski have played impeccably during the season. Lewandowski finished third highest goalscorer with 22 goals and Blaszczykowski netted six times and assisted eight strikes throughout the campaign. They also carry strength in defence aswell with Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny between the sticks, who has arguably been one of their best players this season. They have conceded not a single goal in the last five games, whilst scoring seven in the process, which is no small feat since they have played the likes of Portugal and Bosnia & Herzegovina during that period. I believe that Poland can shock Europe to top this group, and possibly go on to surprise a Group B side in the quarter finals.
Being the highest rank side and the most successful team during the 2008 campaign in the group, you would think that the Russian squad would be the most likely to be Group A victors. They clearly have attacking strength with Arshavin, Pavlychenko and exciting youngster Alan Dzagoev in their ranks, and this was evident during their last match of the qualifying stage; a 6-0 demolition of Andorra. Dick Advocaat's team is one full of experience: eight of the starting XI that lost the Euro 2008 semi final to Spain are still regularly included in the team, so they'll know what it takes to reach that stage once again. However, the way they topped their qualifying group didn't show signs of brilliance. Excluding the match mentioned earlier, they have scored eleven times in nine games, in a group that contained European minnows such as Armenia, Slovakia and Macedonia. Their recent 3-0 win over Italy however shows that they are going to be a threat, and should be able to progress past the group stage.
Greece's international team will always be remembered for their spectacular tournament win in 2004, that no doubt would have left a few bookies grumbling when their pre-tournament odds were around the 60/1 mark. Unfortunatley, that was eight years ago. Greece have never really lived up to those standards since and a first round exit in 2008 only illustrates that. On a brighter note though, new manager Fernando Santos has restored faith in the Greek public that their current team is one that can progress slightly further in the championships than they did in Austria/Switzerland. They have lost just one of the last 18 games and remained undefeated through qualifying to top their group (which consisted of high-flying Croatia, currently ranked eigth in the world). This is due to a very defensive style of play, which doesn't allow the opposition very many oppurtunities to score, but they are also very capable of attacking. With the tough opposition that are in their group, advancing this time around may prove slightly too hard for Santos's men, but they will give it a good go.
Once one of the most prolific teams in world football during the late 1970's and again during the mid-noughties, the Czechs have seen a rapid decline in the quality of players the country produces in recent years. Tomas Rosicky, Milan Baros and Petr Cech still survive from the team of 2004, but all are now past their peak, whilst they also lost their most talented midfielder of the generation, Pavel Nedved, to retirement in 2006. Qualifying wasn't a massive challenge for Michal Bilek's squad. Apart from Spain, they were easily the best team in the group, which consisted of Lithuanian, Litchenstein and Scotland. The only side in Group A who got to the final via the play-offs, they manage to overcome Montenegro 3-0 on aggregate, and then lose to Hungary in the pre-tournament friendly. Overall, the odds of the current side progressing from this group seem slim, but on the plus side, the under 21's are looking like that could be a dominant footballing force in the future with their current success
4. Czech Republic