Euro 2012: Can Van Persie replicate his Arsenal form? Plus: Ronaldo, Lewandowski and Soviet Russia

Euro 2012 Day 2

Euro 2012 got underway on Friday night with two entertaining games in Group A.

Poland and Greece played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw after an elaborate opening ceremony, with sendings off, missed penalties and a lot of passion on show.

Russia wasted no time in stating their claim to progress from the pool, and an Alan Dzagoev inspired side beat a poor Czech Republic team 4-1.

With the Group of Death ready to really kick-start the tournament later today, here is the news that Soccerlens has been looking at on Euro 2012 Day 2.

United target Lewandowski nets first goal of Euro 2012

Poland and Greece played out a 1-1 draw in the first game of Euro 2012 in an entertaining and end-to-end game. However, a sub-plot emerged ahead of the game as the Polish coach Franciszek Smuda admitted that key striker Robert Lewandowski could well be on his way to Manchester United after the tournament, along with his fellow Borussia Dortmund stars.

In my opinion, in a moment they will be gone from Borussia Dortmund. Lewy is going to Manchester United, Jakub also somewhere in England, Lukasz Piszczek to Real Madrid. They have a goal and they want to grow. I base the squad on them,” he confessed.

Lewandowski showed why the Red Devils have been linked with a move for him by heading home after 17 minutes of tournament action.

Advocaat eyes improvement despite commanding victory

Russia opened their Euro 2012 campaign with an impressive 4-1 victory over eastern European rivals Czech Republic, with an Alan Dzagoev brace and strikes from Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko assuring three points.

Despite this, the Dutch trainer feels his side can improve, which will make other nations in the tournament sit up and take note.

We are quite happy, we scored four goals and in any international game that is a very good result,” Sky Sports report Advocaat as saying after the game.

We could have scored more goals, in fact we should have scored more as we had a lot of chances.”

Van Persie yet to win over the Dutch fans

Despite finishing 2011-12 as the Premier League’s top goalscorer and being a critical part of Arsenal’s third place finish, marksman Robin van Persie still has work to do to win over the Dutch fans.

The PFA Player of the Year has proved his worth as one of the continent’s most lethal strikers at club level, but accusations have been levelled at the talented forward that he does not replicate this for the Oranje.

Van Persie has netted 28 goals in 65 international appearances for Bert van Marwijk’s men, but the challenge has been set in his homeland for the Arsenal man to deliver for the Netherlands this summer.

The Dutch start their Euro 2012 campaign against Denmark today, and The Telegraph preview a game that could be crucial in shaping a mouth-watering Group B.

Xavi reveals fractures in Spain squad

Spain midfield general Xavi has admitted that there have been fractures in La Roja’s national squad in the past, with Barcelona and Real Madrid players not seeing eye-to-eye. The Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup winners have an incredible dearth of talent, but a large portion of it is made up by players from the Clasico rivals.

In an interview reported in The Telegraph, the Camp Nou star reveals that Vicente del Bosque and captain Carles Puyol have had to intervene in the past to avoid clashes between international colleagues harbouring club grudges.

With the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta and Xavi himself the core of the Spanish side, it will be interesting to see how the holders start on Sunday against Italy.

Threat of racism very much real

England boss Roy Hodgson has admitted that his side may well be subject to racist abuse throughout the tournament, after Uefa confirmed that onlookers made monkey chants towards the Netherlands squad on Thursday.

The friends and families of England’s coloured players have stayed away from the competition in Ukraine and Poland due to fears that they may be targeted by narrow-minded fans, and Hodgson has confessed that the unsavoury issue may rear its ugly head again.

The risk of racism exists and we will probably have to deal with it,” Hodgson acknowledged in The Telegraph.

Despite obvious excitement from everyone involved at the tournament, with Uefa confirming the racist incident aimed at the Dutch squad, the issue threatens to spoil one of international sports’ top competitions.

Ronaldo to be team player, not individual

Many are writing Portugal off before a ball is even kicked in Group B, with Germany and Netherlands the favourites to progress to the knockout rounds. Despite this, Paulo Bento’s men have the world’s most expensive player in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks to spearhead the Iberian nation’s attack.

CR7 has show his class for Real Madrid over the last two years, scoring 113 goals in 109 appearances since the 2010 World Cup, and the weight of expectation will firmly be on the attacker’s shoulders this summer. Despite this, the Portuguese media are eager for Ronaldo to play as more of a team member, rather than an individual trying to win the game for himself.

“The Portuguese public want to know if Cristiano Ronaldo is, finally, going to perform for the national side. Up to now, he has been more of an individual than a team player,” Vitor Serpa, chief editor at A Bola, told World Soccer.

Ronaldo has stated that the team’s goals are more important than individual ambitions, and feels that Portugal can revel in their underdogs tags.

We are in a very strong group,” Ronaldo concedes in The Guardian.

We have to play without pressure and have to play with fun. That’s the advantage of Portugal not being the favourite.

“Of course we have our own goals in this competition. But the most important thing is the team itself and after that comes the individual players.”

Also don’t miss:

  • Welbeck likely to lead the line for England against France
  • England’s open training session on Friday in pictures
  • Buffon calls on the Italian fans to back their under-pressure side
  • Nicklas Bendtner to start in attack for Denmark against Netherlands
  • Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni believes his side can upset the odds
  • Spain’s Gerard Pique out to nullify threat of Mario Balotelli against Italy

Day Two sees some of the continent’s top teams entering the fray, and if the first day is anything to go by it should be a scintillating evening of football.

Euro 2012 Group C: Spain and Italy need to prove themselves all over again
Euro 2012 Group B: Germany face near-impossible task