The Euro 2012 certainly started with an exciting game if not a decisive one as co-host Poland faced Greece in Warsaw. The Greek defence did not perform well at the beginning and let Poland get a lot of attacks in. Poland capitalized on their chances and scored a goal in the 16th minute. Off of a wide cross, Lewandowski drove a bouncing header into the top left corner of the goal. Greece ran into further trouble in the first half when Sokratis Papastathopoulos received a yellow card in the 35th minute. Papastathopoulos was booked yet again in the 44th minute and sent off, leaving Greece a man short going into the second half. Both cards were dubious, putting eyes on the Spanish referee and giving a huge advantage to Poland heading into the second half.
Greece was not daunted by being reduced to ten men, and brought on Salpingidis at half time. Salpingidis quickly proved his worth as a sub. In the 51st minute on Salpingidis’s first touch of the match as he pounced on a loose ball to give Greece the equalizer. With the inspiration from the equalizer, Greece continued to push forward and pressure the Polish defense. Salpingidis kept the pressure on Poland and at the 69th minute gained Greece an excellent opportunity to get ahead when Poland’s keeper Szczesny tripped Salpingidis as he was chasing a loose ball in the penalty area. Szczesny was given a straight red card and sent off; the second red of the game. Poland brought on their backup keeper Tyton and Greece was given a penalty. Karagounis took the penalty sending a low driven kick at the right center of the goal, but Tyton managed to reach the ball and make an extraordinary save. The penalty save brought some steam back into the Poland players and the remainder of the match saw several good chances by both sides. However neither side was able to capitalize on any of their chances and the match ended a draw and 1 each. While the refereeing of the match was suspect with both Poland and Greece having a player sent off, the two teams should be glad to take away a point from the Euro 2012 opener. The Polish side will be a little more miffed by their failure to secure a victory in Warsaw today, but they now must set aside the drama of the match to prepare for facing Russia on June 12th.
The afternoon game between the Czech Republic and Russia was more fluid and had more attempts at goal than the match earlier in the day. While the Czechs were pressing forward the most at the start of the game, Russia made the best use of its counterattacks and had several dangerous chances in front of the Czech goal. Russia went ahead early in the match as Dzagoev scored on a rebound after a header by Kerzhakov ricocheted off the right post. The Russians extended their lead to 2-0 nine minutes later. A through ball by Arshavin went in between two Czech defenders and Shirokov chipped the ball over Petr Cech into the goal. Russia continued to take shots throughout the first half including a missed opportunity by Kerzhakov in the 37th minute that sailed high over the crossbar.
The second half began with another poor finish by Kerzhakov in the 50th minute, where the Zenit striker once again sent the ball wide on what should have been an easy goal for Russia. Kerzhakov’s wide shot was made all the worse two minutes later as the Czechs finally got the ball past Malafeev into the Russian net. Jaroslav Plašil slammed the ball down the center of the pitch bisecting the Russian defense, where Pilar caught the ball and manouevred around Malafeev to chip it in. Despite this setback, Russia kept playing the counterattack while the Czechs relied on defenders Theodor Gebre Selassie and Michael Kadlec to run the ball upfield. Russia continued to punch through the Czech defense and threaten Cech, and finally found further success near the end of the second half after Lokomotiv forward Roman Pavlyuchenko was brought on to replace the lacklustre Kerzkhakov. Pavlyuchenko was instrumental in getting Russia two more goals by the end of the game. In the 79th minute, Pavlyuchenko passed the ball to Dzagoev who then fired the ball past Cech into the top left corner from the edge of the penalty area, giving the 21 year old his second goal of the match. Pavlyuchenko himself scored Russia’s fourth and final goal three minutes later with a low drive after dribbling past most of the Czech defence. Russia ended the match 4-1, netting them 3 points and putting them into the top of group A at the end of the first day of competition.
Group A standings: