After much hype and hysteria building up to the kickoff of the EURO 2012 tournament, it’s now underway! Co-Host Poland kicked off on their home turf against 2004 upset champion Greece. A lot of early pressure from Poland saw mounting chances that made them destined to score. In the 17th minute, Robert Lewandowski headed a zooming cross from Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Maybe the Greek goalie was out of position, but the strike looked pretty good from here. Tension mounted and Greece was forced to 10 men when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for his second yellow, a weak foul at best, only 9 minutes after his first. With a weak first half and now down a man, Greece came out firing in the second half. Their first half conservative style was nowhere to be found as they made constant attacks out of the gate.
They equalized in only the 51st minute with a goal from substitute Dimitrios Salpingidis. Now destined to take another lead, Poland continued their strong counters, but in a rare foul by Polish keeper Wojciech Szczensy, Greece was given a penalty and a chance to take the lead for the first time.
Substitute Polish keeper made a spectacular save to keep the game even, and that’s how it would finish: Poland 1-1 Greece. Notably though, Poland will miss their starting keeper in their next match against Russia. Russia, meanwhile, faced Czech Republic in what seemed to be an easy first match for the Russian side.
Taking a 1-0 lead on a deflected header shot home by Alan Dzagoev (15′) and quickly adding to their lead with a finesse chip by Shirokov (24′) over Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Czech. Not until the second half did Czech Republic get a glimmer of hope. In the 52nd minute, when Pilar escaped the Russian keeper and sent home an easy goal to the side net.
Not long before Russia struck back and flexed their mussle. What might become one of the best goals in the group stage, Alan Dzagoev took a quick little through ball, and instinctively sent it to the far top shelf from 17 yards. Peter Czech may have been close, but there was no stopping such a deadly strike.
To top it all off, Roman Pavlyuchenko toyed with the Czech defense and after dribbling back and forth across the corner of the box, planted one home off the finger tips of Czech. Two powerful goals in the final few minutes of the game will have the rest of Group A questioning their own confidence.
Catch Groups B and C tomorrow and Sunday, when they kick off at 8am and 11:45Aam PDT on ESPN and affiliated networks.