When the Czech Republic and Russia kick off their Group A campaigns against each other on Friday, players on both sides will recognise friendly faces among the opposition. As Tomáš Rosický told UEFA.com, however, that kind of familiarity merely breeds respect, not contempt.
Rosický's pedigree ensures there is little his opponents will not know about the Czech captain when he leads his team out in Wroclaw. However, should Czech coach Michal Bílek require, the Arsenal FC midfielder can also provide the inside track on his Russian counterpart, club team-mate Andrey Arshavin.
Despite Arshavin seeing his first-team opportunities at Arsenal limited last season, which led to a loan move to former club FC Zenit St Petersburg in February, Rosický is in no doubt of the threat the artful Russian poses to Czech ambitions at the tournament.
"When you watch matches of the Russian team, Andrey is still the key player in the national team too; there's no doubt about it," Rosický said, having spent most of the last three seasons alongside Arshavin in north London. "Andrey is still a great player, and there's no doubt he will represent an enormous danger for us."
Rosický is not the only Czech player who will be enjoying a club reunion on the Municipal Stadium Wroclaw pitch. Forward Tomáš Necid could come face to face with five of his PFC CSKA Moskva team-mates on Friday, and, having moved to the Russian capital three years ago, he is well placed to pinpoint the qualities that earned Dick Advocaat's men top spot in qualifying Group B.
"Their biggest strength is in attack," said the 22-year-old. "They have good midfielders and forwards, who can score a goal or who can move the ball around a lot in midfield before making the final pass. I'm very much looking forward to this match. It will be very special for me since a lot of guys from my club, for example [Aleksei Berezutski] and [Alan] Dzagoev and [Igor] Akinfeev, all play for them. They're very good players who are the backbone of the team, and I'm looking forward to meeting them."
While the Czechs suffered a group stage exit at UEFA EURO 2008, Russia made a surprise run to the last four before losing to eventual champions Spain. Greece and co-hosts Poland, as well as the Czechs, bar their way in the group stage, but Rosický believes Russia will stake a strong claim on one of the two qualifying places for the knockout stages.
"If you're talking about the favourites for the group, that would be Russia," he said. "They have a very experienced team and play good football, so we definitely have the most difficult match in the group up first. The group does appear very even, but Russia, thanks to the experience in their team, will certainly be tough opponents."
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