Story by Robin Popley
All-too-often in football, games and tournaments, fail to live up-to expectation. However; in the first match of Euro 2012, co-hosts, Poland, took on 2004 winners, Greece in possibly one of the best and most heated openings in living-memory. From the off, Poland looked the stronger, with the captain, Blaszczykowski, the architect for most of their early dominance. It was he who carved open the cross from which Poland’s number nine, Lewandowksi, headed in at the back-post on 17 minutes to hand Poland a well deserved 1 – 0 advantage, following an earlier error by Greece’s keeper, Chalkais. It wasn’t to get much better for the Greeks, who, were first reduced to ten men in the dying minutes of the first half (Papastathopoulos, the man to go, following a 2nd yellow card) before a penalty-appeal against French-born Polish defender, Perquis, was turned down. They must have wondered if their luck would ever change.
Thankfully, for them, it did with the introduction of super-sub Salpingidis. After levelling the match 6 minutes into the 2nd half, he then was upended with 20 minutes left after being played in one-on-one. The culprit, Arsenal’s Number 1, Szczesny, was given a straight red card and his replacement Tyton’s first task was to face the subsequent penalty. For those amongst you who are betting people, you would have thought quite probably, the inevitable turnaround would soon be complete. Wrong. With his very first touch, Tyson saved the spot-kick taken by Karagounis, lauding him the eventual plaudits at full-time.
In the second match of Euro 2012, the much fancied Russia took on the historically proud footballing nation, Czech Republic. However, on this showing, the past stars of Nedved and Koller must look back on their time favourably but with disappointment at their nation’s current crop. From start to finish, Russia were completely dominant, with their captain, Arshavin, looking like the player Arsenal parted with their money for. Additionally, the central midfield pairing of Shirokov and Zyryanov, played brilliantly throughout. The former grabbed the Russian’s second goal of the evening after man-of-the-moment, Alan Dzagoev, grabbed the first of his two goals. Despite leading 2-0 at the interval, Russia should have gone into the break out of sight, with Zenit St. Petersburg forward, Kerzhakov looking out of sorts. Dzagoev, himself, missed a relatively easy chance when clear in on Cech’s goal in between his first and Sirokov’s 25th minute goal. The only good thing to come out of the 1st half for the Czech Republic, was the performance of their winger, Pilar. It would be down to him, realistically, to mount any type of fightback.
Deservedly, he tucked away a very nice finish in the 52nd minute, to peg back the scoreline to 2-1. However; Russia (worryingly for the Czech Republic) still looked extremely threatening. Following the substitution of the erratic, Kerzhakov, Russia looked a completely different team once more in attack. More potent for a start. His replacement, Pavlyuchenko (a name familiar to Tottenham Hotspur supporters), created the 3rd goal – playing in Dzagoev for his 2nd – before completing the rout with a first-class finish into the top of Cech’s net. The Chelsea keeper may have been disappointed not to have got more of a hand on the effort. Nevertheless, the former Spurs striker, showed his true international pedigree and rounded off the perfect evening for former-Rangers manager, Dick Advocaat, in his final international tournament before heading back to club football with PSV next season.
If the rest of this group, and tournament as a whole live up to day one, it will be extremely interesting viewing for all those concerned!