Boring Greece, ruthless Russia and goals galore – Review of Day 1 at Euro 2012

There is a cliché that the opening game of a tournament is always going to be a mundane affair, and Poland V Greece was meant to be just that. It seems both sets of players didn’t read the proverbial script. Two goals, two red cards, a penalty and some rubbish defending put pay to that cliché.

Wojciech Szczesny makes an error to gift Greece a penalty in the opening game

From the start, it looked as though the Poles were riding the pre-game optimism that engulfed the co-hosts before the tournament began. They passed the pall around at ease, while Greece surrendered possession too easy. Chances came and went until supposed Manchester United target Robert Lewandowski profited from the Greek goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias making an horrendous error of judgement. Poland were 1-0 up and not long after they were a man up. Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for what can only be described as poor refereeing. Greece looked dead and buried.

Poland seemed to rest on their laurels after the break, though. Greece got back into it after a terrible mistake from Arsenal Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny when he handed Greece a lifeline. He fumbled a cross which led to Dimitris Sapigidis equalising. The young goalkeeper made another mistake when he took Salpigidis down after he beat the offside trap, and a penalty and red card were given. The relaxed rules mean Szczesny will only miss one game though. His replacement Giorgos Karagounis had his penalty by the substitute keeper. That proved to be the end of the drama as the game petered out into a draw.

Russia V Czech Republic

The stalemate in the first game meant that if someone came out on top in the second game, that team would be in pole position to qualify. The Czechs started out on top, which was surprising as the Russians are, quite rightly, the favourites to top this group due to the players they have at their disposal. They were quick out of the blocks, and it was against the run of play when Alan Dzagoev slammed home the rebound after Kerzhakov hit the post.

After that, Russia began to take control and in the 23rd minute Roman Shirkov scored their second. A superb pass from captain Andrei Arshavin set up the ‘Russian Joey Barton’ to dink the ball over Petr Cech. They continued to press for a 3rd and after some near misses the Czech’s got in at half time just 2 goals behind.

After the break, it began the same as the first. Only, this time, the Czech Republic made their dominance pay. Tomas Rosicky played in Václav Pilař who rounded the goalkeeper to get his his team back into the game. It was game on.

Alenxandr Kerzhakov was eventually replaced by former Spurs player Roman Pavlychenko. It wasnt long before ‘Pav’ made his mark on the game. In the 79th minute he played a lovely ball into Dzagoev who once against finished superbly to put the game behind their rivals. 5 minutes later, Pavlychenko completed the scoreline with a superb drive. It finished 4-1 and its Russia who are only a win away from yet another Quarter Final appearance.

Dzagoev slams the ball past Petr Cech to put his side in the lead

The next round of games in this group is on Tuesday. Greece face the Czech Republic in a repeat of the 2004 semi final while Poland take on Russia.

Without doubt, the second game is the standout game of the day. Russia’s open style of football will almost certainly leave space for Poland striker Robert Lewandowski to exploit. Can he punish them? His form with his club side Borussia Dortmund proves he can; he’ll need to be the key man for Poland.

As for Russia, their mouthwatering performance tonight will make them favourites, while captain Andrei Arshavin will be their key player. He showed tonight why Arsene Wenger forked out big money to bring him to the Emirates in 2009. Arshavin is also the type of player who thrives on international tournaments, and will be able to take his team far. Also – Kerzhakov cant be that wasteful in front of goal again, surely?

Greece and Czech Republic is a key game for a number of reasons. Depending on the result in Warsaw, the loser of this game could be the first team knocked out Euro 2012. As we’ve seen from today, Greece will be a tough nut to crack, although their centre backs will more than likely be missing due to suspension and injury. Giorgos Karagounis will be at the centre of most good things that Greece will do.

As ever, the old warriors Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros will be integral to the Czech’s chances. Václav Pilař will also be one to watch. His cool finish against Russia proves he can strike a fatal blow if needed. A possible weak link could be Václav Kadlec. He looked totally out of depth in the first game which will give the Greeks a lot of hope that they can cause another upset like the miracle they pulled off in Portugal in 2004 when they beat the Czechs in extra time.


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