Goals: Lewandowski (17’), Salpingidis (51’)
Red Card: Papastathopoulos (44’), Szczęsny (68’)
Poland Lineup: Szczęsny, Perquis, Wasilewski, Boenisch, Piszczek, Błaszczykowski, Polanski, Murawski, Obraniak, Rybus, Lewandowski
Substitute(s): Tytoń for Rybus (70’)
Greece Lineup: Chalkias, Papadopoulos, Papastathopoulos, Torosidis, Holebas, Katsouranis, Karagounis, Maniatis, Ninis, Gekas, Samaras
Substitute(s): Papadopoulos for Papadopoulos (37’), Salpingidis for Ninis (45’), Fortounis for Gekas (68’)
Wow! First game of the tournament and we got a little bit of everything: an early goal, a comeback, red cards, controversial calls, a penalty kick, a save on said penalty kick. Not much more you can ask for.
To brag real quickly, I predicted the game to end 1-1. However, I didn’t come close to guessing that it would be so eventful. Furthermore, it shouldn’t have ended 1-1 in my opinion. I wanted to say 2-1 to the home side, but my conservativeness took over. But just like the members of both squads, I can’t help feeling like someone deserved to win it, and that both teams deserved more.
The nervy beginning I thought we’d witness never happened. Poland were on the attack from the starting whistle, creating plenty of chances. Lewandowski got the first goal of the tournament in the 17th minute, and it felt like Poland was going to keep rolling from there. Things got worse for Greece when Papastathopoulos was sent off for his second yellow card just before halftime. The first yellow was harsh, but the second one somehow managed to top the first questionable decision. When Murawski seemingly tripped, the Greek defender was punished, something I am still irritated about. At this point, I thought that Greece should try and pack it in, play strictly counter-attacking football, and play to not have their goal differential hurt too much at the end of the day.
But just after the fans had found their seats, Salpingidis, recently substituted on, got the equalizer, and suddenly there was life again. It still felt like Poland’s game to lose, only until Szczęsny brought down Salpingidis in the box after he was sent clean through on a breakaway. He was sent off, the game was now ten on ten, and Greece had a huge opportunity from 12 yards out.
But when Karagounis stepped up to try and give the Greeks the lead, Przemysław Tytoń, Poland’s only substitute of the day, dove to his left and made a key save, keeping the game at 1-1. It ended that way, and the home fans had backup keeper Tytoń to thank for it. Interestingly enough, he became the first substitute in Euro history to save a penalty kick. What a time to do so.
Lewandowski was brilliant for Poland, and if they are to go through to the next round, he will need to continue to play a big role. His early goal set the tone, although, surprisingly, Poland weren’t able to net a second, even being up a man for almost half an hour.
When Salpingidis entered the game for Greece, the game began to have a different feel, at least when Greece was on the ball. His goal put them back in it, and he drew the penalty that couldn’t be converted. Had Szczęsny not brought him down with his leg, he would’ve had the game winner. Man of the match for me.
Finally, although only in for the last 25 minutes of the game, backup Polish keeper Przemysław Tytoń, made the save that kept the game 1-1 and ultimately got Poland a point. That point could prove huge, and Tytoń will be asked to step up big again on Tuesday, only this time for the entire game with Szczęsny suspended, and against the much more threatening side of Russia.
I didn’t see too much from Giorgos Samaras that made me believe he can lead this team to the next round, something I thought before the game. Salpingidis took over the attack, and Samaras didn’t have much of an overall impact on the game. They’ll need him to improve for the next two matches if they want a shot at playing into the later stages of the tournament.
Wojciech Szczęsny will miss the next match against Russia due to his red card. Some say he was at fault a little for Greece’s lone goal, but I thought that was a bit harsh. He wasn’t called on too much, and not being on the field for the full ninety minutes is obviously a blow to the whole squad. Luckily, the penalty he caused was saved, and yes, he did stop Salpingidis from scoring; he may be suspended, but not allowing that goal ended up giving Poland a key point in the table. Not a total flop, but the closest thing to it due to some unfortunate, harsh circumstances.
Special shout out the referee of the match: Carlos Velasco Carballo. Horrible red card for Greece in my opinion, something that you hate to see. He didn’t lose control of the game, but that double yellow was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Oh well, can’t change it now.
A Look Ahead:
For Poland, I honestly think that getting anything against Russia should be considered a win. If they play like they did against the Czechs, Russia is a serious threat to get the maximum nine points in the group stage. It will be a huge boost for Poland if they can at least get a point on Tuesday. If not, they will have to keep themselves and their fans in agony until their third game against the Czech Republic.
Greece has a chance to make it a three team race in group A if they hand the Czechs their second straight loss in three days time. However, I expect a rebound from the team currently at the bottom of the table, so Greece will need to up their game if they even want a point. They know what to expect, and know that they can do it. Now they just need to execute their gameplan, and get as many points as they can before they play Russia in a week, a game I would predict them to lose right now. Two draws and a loss probably wouldn’t see them through. A win in this next game is, in my opinion, their last realistic shot at getting some major points, so don’t take your eyes off them.
I predicted Russia and the Czech Republic to come out of group A. I’ll stick by that for now, but there’s definitely an opportunity for every team in group A to advance.