Greece Vs. Russia, 2012 European Championships: Greeks To Abandon Defensive Approach?

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 12: Alan Dzagoev of Russia celebrates scoring the first goal during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Poland and Russia at The National Stadium on June 12, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Greece need a win and they've seen the best results from playing aggressively in this tournament. Russia only need a draw. Surely this won't be attacking Russia against tentative Greece?

Greece has obtained two different results in the team's first two games at Euro 2012, but the performances have been exactly the same. They've gotten off to slow starts and made bad defensive errors, they've been forced to make a move away from their ultra-conservative tactics when they failed to keep their opposition off the scoreboard, and they've obtained much better results in the second halves of both of their games while looking more ambitious.

They drew their first match against Poland, but couldn't come back from the 2-0 deficit they gifted to the Czech Republic in just six minutes of play. Youngster Kyriakos Papadopoulos and defensive midfielder Kostas Katsouranis didn't exactly make a good central defense pair, while the Greek midfield was significantly weakened by Katsouranis' move. Sokratis Papastathopoulos returns from suspension on Saturday, and they should get off to a much stronger start with him in the back line and Katsouranis back where he belongs.

Last Game: Poland 1-1 Russia, Czech Republic 2-1 Greece

Their opponents, Russia, might let Greece actually do their thing if they come out with their normal conservative tactics, even though they need a win. Russia only need a draw to ensure qualification for the quarterfinals, though they're probably interested in going for the win in order to avoid Germany in the next round. Russia have the players to play conservatively and counter, but their first-choice starting XI is built to attack.

Russia are not expected to make any changes, though it wouldn't be too surprising to see Dick Advocaat make some moves due to form, or to protect players from suspensions. Igor Denisov and Alan Dzagoev are both on yellow cards, and Denisov in particular plays a position where cards just happen sometimes. Giving him a rest and giving a run-out to veteran midfielder Igor Semshov wouldn't be a terrible idea.

Greece will almost certainly make changes, the most important being the aforementioned reinstatement of Papastathopoulos. Michail Sifakis is also likely to start in goal after starter Kostas Chalkias injured his hamstring in Greece's last game. Additionally, expect veteran striker Theofanis Gekas to make his return to the team. He came off the bench against the Czech Republic and scored his team's goal. He looked good against Poland and led UEFA World Cup 2010 qualifying in goals, so it's suspect that he was dropped in the first place.

Projected Greece Lineup (4-3-3): Michail Sifakis; Jose Holebas, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Vasilis Torosidis; Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis, Giannis Maniatis; Georgios Samaras, Theofanis Gekas, Dimitris Salpigidis.

Projected Russia Lineup (4-3-3): Vyacheslav Malafeev; Yuri Zhirkov, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksei Berezutski, Alexander Anyukov; Igor Denisov, Roman Shirokov, Konstantin Zyryanov; Andrei Arshavin, Alexander Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev.

football formations

Monty the Psychic Metal Disk says: Greece still start Georgios Samaras. Really. 2-0 Russia.

Game Date/Time: Saturday, June 16th, 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. local

Venue: National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland

TV: ESPN2 (U.S. - English), ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), BBC Three (U.K.), TSN (Canada)

Online: ESPN3

We'll have live coverage of both of Saturday's games simultaneously in our Euro 2012, Group A Finale StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on twitter.

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