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'Small final' starts 'special' Group A

Published: Monday 28 May 2012, 10.00CET
"A small final" is how Poland's Jakub Błaszczykowski describes their Group A opener against Greece, while Czech Republic keeper Petr Čech is eagerly anticipating a "very special group".

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Published: Monday 28 May 2012, 10.00CET

'Small final' starts 'special' Group A

"A small final" is how Poland's Jakub Błaszczykowski describes their Group A opener against Greece, while Czech Republic keeper Petr Čech is eagerly anticipating a "very special group".

All eyes will be firmly fixed on Group A come Friday 8 June, as Poland begin their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign on home soil against Greece. Jakub Błaszczykowski told UEFA.com that he is targeting a perfect start in Warsaw, knowing from experience that it could be crucial to Poland's chances of progression.

"The first match is the most important, – it will practically be a small final for us," said the 26-year-old midfielder. "We have played in championships a couple of times and lost the first game. It means you don't have your destiny completely in your own hands any more. We have to remember that, and make sure it doesn't happen."

Standing in Poland's way are a side that have form in this competition – particularly when it comes to upsetting the home team, with Greece twice defeating hosts Portugal en route to their shock UEFA EURO 2004 triumph. Fanis Gekas knows opening-day opponents Poland provide a stiff test, but is confident experience will help his side to see off the threat.

"Of course the first match for them, as a host country, is very important," said the 32-year-old striker. "We regularly take part in important tournaments, so I believe the most important thing for us will be readiness. If we show the necessary respect and do our best, I think we can do anything."

The Czech Republic face 2008 semi-finalists Russia in Wroclaw in Group A's other opening contest, but Igor Semshov feels Dick Advocaat's side are a team in transition, and would not be drawn on predictions. "[Russia are] the same as Greece," he said. "They are also going through a change of generations. Each team has its leaders. Nobody knows what to expect, because everything will depend on how well they prepare for the EUROs, and what shape their best players are in."

After his scintillating final performances helped Chelsea FC win the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, one of those leaders, goalkeeper Petr Čech, is in the best possible shape and is excited by the competitive look of the section. "It's a very special group, all of the teams are very even," said Čech. "I don't think that one team will win every match. I think there will be draws, and every goal and point will count, so it will be very interesting from the start."

Last updated: 26/10/12 14.45CET

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