In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA gamer Darren Cross reveals his strongest line-ups and tactics for the teams in Group A…
Hello and thanks for stopping by.
I'm kicking off this week's Backpage with a thank you for reading because I'm sure that, if you're anything like me, you're currently spending pretty much all of your free time trying to win Euro 2012, right?
I've been playing this game relentlessly for a few weeks now - I was lucky enough to get an early review version - so I've had a pop at winning the tournament with loads of different teams.
For me though, there's something really engaging about playing as one of the nations that will really be there this summer and I'm sure many of you feel the same, so over the next few weeks we’re going to take a closer look at each of the 16 teams at Euro 2012 and how I think you can set them up to give you the best chance of winning.
The squads will almost certainly change a little once they’re officially announced closer to kick-off, but until then they should stay as they are so take a look and see if my tactics and line-ups work for you.
First up is of course Group A, featuring Poland, Greece, Russia and Czech Republic. Let’s get started…
Joint hosts Poland are a 4* team. Or should I say 4 Footballs team now? Not sure, but either way they’re a cracking side to use if you fancy a pop at the tournament using one of the underdogs.
What I like most about Poland is that they’ve got some very good wingers and a striker – Lewandowski – who is great in the air, so I set them up to play wide and get crosses in by switching from the default 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2.
Brozek comes in to partner the big man up front, which means Obraniak moves to left midfield. He is a key player on the left as he’s excellent at dribbling and, crucially, crossing.
Annoying Poland have a ton of good wingers, but you can only play one in that RM spot and that has to be Blaszczykowski. With 90 for Acceleration and a Sprint Speed of 92, he’s the quickest player in the Polish squad and is also very good technically.
In the centre of midfield I play Peszko at RCM and move Polanski to LCM, dropping Murawski. Peszko is out of position in the middle – he’s a winger really – but he can be very effective because of his pace. The aggressive Polanski is one of Poland’s better passers so he stays in the team.
At the back you can leave Szczesny in goal but you’ll want to drop the sluggish Wasilewski from the back four. I shift Perquis, who is slow but very good in the air, across to RCB then bring in Wojtkowiak to play as the LCB. The rest of the defence is fine.
The only other thing left to do is make sure you’ve got Lewandowski as the RS with Brozek as LS. Obraniak is the best crosser Poland have so you want him whipping balls in for the big striker.
So my Poland line-up looks like this…
GK Szczesny RB Piszczek RCB Perquis LCB Wojtkowiak LB Wawrzyniak RM Blaszczykowski RCM Peszko LCM Polanski LM Obraniak RS Lewandowski LS Brozek
Former European champions Greece are another 4*/Footballs team that are well worth looking at as, with a bit of tinkering, you can set them up to be very effective in attack.
They default with a 4-3-3 that, in FIFA terms, doesn’t really play to their strengths so the first thing I do is switch them to a 4-1-2-1-2(1). This suits them better as the CAM and captain Karagounis is one of their best passers and can threaten from long range thanks to his 80 Long Shots rating and Long Shot Taker trait, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Starting in goal there’s not much to choose between Sifakis and Tzorvas, but I go for Sifakis as he has slightly better reactions. You don’t need to do anything to the back four, although it’s worth pointing out that sub Kyriakos Papadopoulos is a quality player to bring in if one of your centre-backs is struggling.
You do need to do some rearranging in midfield. I keep Katsouranis as the CDM as I prefer his technical stats to the more physical Tziolis. Next, I move Ninis to RM. He’s quick, a good dribbler and has excellent ball control so I think he’s the best bet there. Karagounis goes to CAM then I select Fetfatzidis on the left. He’s a very fast, left-footed winger who can also do 5* skills and I highly recommend picking him.
Up front I go for pace and power by keeping Salpingidis on the right and bringing in Mitroglou on the left in place of Samaras, who doesn’t really offer much at all. Salpingidis is the fastest player in the squad and is a top finisher, while Mitroglou is a 6ft 2in left-footer who also knows how to hit the back of the net.
Here’s my line-up…
RCB A. Papadopoulos
4.5 star Russia will be favourites to win Group A and for good reason; they’ve got a very strong squad packed with pace and power.
They play a 4-3-3 by default but I reckon they’re a good team for 3-5-2 fans as they’re solid at the back, have a number of quality midfielders and two strikers that compliment each other very well.
If you’re using Russia in Kick-off mode then you’ll be able to pick 84-rated keeper Akinfeev in goal, but – because of injury – he’s not in the Russian squad in the tournament modes so you’ll have to make do with Malafeev.
Anyukov is the perfect choice for the right side of your defence and will give you the insurance of pace, which you’ll need as the two Berezutskiy brothers can be vulnerable against fast strikers. I play Vasili in the centre and bring his brother Aleksei in for Ignashevich. Berezutskiy is quicker, taller, stronger and naturally left-footed, so he’s a better choice there.
In midfield, ex-Chelsea star Yuri Zhirkov is perfect for the LM role; he’s fairly quick and has great technical abilities including a massive 87 for Crossing, which is going to come in handy. On the other side of the pitch I bring Kasaev in from the bench to play as the RM. He’s fast, a good dribbler and can do 4* skill moves, so I prefer him to Samedov. In Kick-off mode you’ll be able to pick the rapid Bystrov to play on the right.
In the two holding roles there’s plenty of quality players to choose from, but I go with Semshov as RDM and play Denisov next to him. Semshov is slightly more creative while Denisov is the more destructive of the two, so they work well together.
Arshavin gets the nod to play as the CAM because he’s quick, responsive, great technically and good with either foot. He tires quite quickly though, so it’s handy to have another class player like Dzagoev waiting in the wings.
For the front two I move Kerzhakov to LS and select Fulham striker Pavel Pogrebnyak as the RS. Pog’s not the quickest but he’s very strong and really good in the air, while Kerzhakov isn’t much of an aerial threat but makes up for it by being quicker and far more lethal with shots inside the box.
That makes my line-up look like this…
CB V. Berezutskiy
LCB A. Berezutskiy
Back in 1996, Czech Republic made it all the way to the final of the Euros, losing to Germany via a golden goal. They’re not likely to go so far at Euro 2012, but they do have a decent squad and can be fun to use.
Their default formation is 4-2-3-1, which I change because I’m not the biggest fan of using a lone striker. Instead I like to play the narrow version of the 4-1-2-1-2(2) with them as they have some useful midfielders.
No need to worry about the GK position – Cech’s got that covered – but there’s some work to do with the back four. Start by swapping the right-back Pospech with the much quicker Gebre Selassie, then I bring Hubschman back to fill the RCB role and drop Hubnik, as Hubschman is faster and a better ball winner. Next to him I stick with Sivok at LCB and Kadlec keeps his place at left-back.
Polak’s the best option for the CDM position and in front of him I go with Plasil at LCM, who is one of Czech Republic’s top players. He’s got great ball control, excellent passing abilities and is good from long range plus – thanks to his 5* weak foot – you can play him anywhere across midfield. Next to Plasil is Petrzela who is slightly out of position but brings a burst of pace to the midfield.
Rosicky is the obvious choice as the CAM where his vision, passing and dribbling can create the most opportunities for the strikers, who are Baros and Necid. Neither player is especially quick – Czech Republic are not the best choice for players who like fast teams – but they can both finish and Necid is also a threat in the air.
Here's the line-up...
RB Gebre Selassie
LB M. Kadlec
Okay, that covers Group A.
Pop back next week and we’ll take a look at the teams in Group B – Holland, Denmark, Germany and Portugal.
As always, thanks for reading and see you next week.
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