Poland 1-1 Greece
Not a bad opening contest, it ebbed and flowed, occasionally boring, occasionally entertaining.
Poland bossed most of the game, including nearly all the first half. Very eager, well up for it. Maybe to too much of extent, they seemed a little reckless at times in terms of tackles and passing, frequently surrendering possession when they didn’t really have to. Greece were iffy, and the goal, went it came, illustrated some uncharacteristic gaps in the back line of the 2004 champions. Lewandowski still buried it with power though.
The first red card was a travesty, and a really bad way for this tournament to start in terms of big decisions. From the look on the Greek managers face going in at the break I thought they were finished, but they came out in the second with a more cautiously forward approach and it paid off, Salpingidis’ goal the reward for the probing. Szczesny might be getting raked over the coals for his judgement and lack of communication, but Salpingidis was still left in acres of space inside the Polish penalty area, unacceptable considering the hosts had an extra man.
Great save from Tyton to keep the Poles at level pegging, what a moment for him. If any team was to go on and win it from there it would have been Poland, but the Greek turtle job did its work and the opportunities were very limited. Greece were, past the 75 minute mark, only interested in a point and shut the game down as much as they could have.
A draw then, but a decent contest to open the tournament. The Poles will improve I think, they are suffering from a lack of competitive practice if anything, and I still favour them to qualify. The Greeks are stuck in this conservative mindset, and while they were able to claw the situation back today, I don’t see them advancing.
Russia 4–1 Czech Republic
Russia start their campaign with a bang, utterly blitzing the Czech’s in the first half. Arshavin was simply terrorizing them down the left flank, with Czech left-back Kadlec looking hapless for long spells. Both goals were taken really well in the first half, fantastic team efforts, with some sublime finishing. The Czech’s stabilised as the half went on, but Russia really could have been four up at half time.
They couldn’t keep that pace up, and the Czech’s slowly came back into it in the second half. However, they displayed a certain lack of imagination up front with a really poor final ball. Pilar’s goal was a result of a great through ball from Plasil, but turned out to be more a fluke than anything as the Russian defence stayed solid for the rest of the game. The Russians did tire, notably, but so did the Czech’s. Dzagoev’s second was a smashing killer blow, and Pavlyuchenko’s goal demonstrated the continuing weakness in the opposition on defence as he was given way too much time on the ball to twist and turn.
An utterly dominating performance from Russia for most of the game, who should go on to beat Poland and secure advancement. The Czech’s have to do or die against Greece, a tough proposition based on their form tonight.