We couldn’t have asked for a better day to kick of Euro 2012. Poland and Greece provided us with two goals and two red cards, while Russia showed from the first moment they are the class of this group with an impressive 4-1 thrashing of the Czech Republic after a wonderful performance from Andrei Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev.
Poland 1 Greece 1
Justice done. Poland did begin the match with the expected push and enthusiasm from the crowd, which resulted in a nice cross and goal from Lewandowski. When Carlos Velasco Carballo sent off Sokratis for two yellow cards that both of them shouldn’t have been called, it looked that Poland might steamroll of the depressed Fernando Santos and his team.
But there’s more to the Greek side than meets the eye. Playing in 10 men while being forced to start attacking brought the best out of them. When Salpigidis entered for the disappointing Ninis, everything changed. Poland are based on enthusiasm and momentum. When that dies, the match shifted towards the blue side. A bad Szczesny decision led to Salpigidis’ goal, and soon after he was sent off for a foul in the box. Karagounis missed the penalty kick.
Russia 4 Czech Republic 1
Well, we should have known that Russia were going to fired up. They love the Euro, and couldn’t wait to show Europe just how good they are. But I don’t think anyone expected them to be this dominant, this good, while the Czech Republic so naive and weak while defending.
Alan Dzagoev, the 21 year old star of CSKA Moscow showed just how talented he is with a couple of goals, while Andrei Arshavin produced a masterclass of a performance that’s having Arsene Wenger ripping his hairs out, trying to understand where was this guy all season. Aleksandr Kerzhakov could have scored 3-4 goals with ease, but kept missing in front of a helpless Cech.
Tomas Rosicky had a few moments when looked like a world class playmaker, but he didn’t have enough support and motion from this fellow attackers to work with. Milan Baros? Didn’t really show up. Roman Pavlyuchenko sealed the deal with a brilliant finish after coming off the bench.
Group A Table
1. Russia, 3 Points (4-1)
2. Greece, 1 Point (1-1)
-. Poland, 1 Point (1-1)
4. Czech Republic, 0 Points (1-4)
1. Alan Dzagoev (Russia) – 2 Goals
2. Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Dimitris Salpigidis (Greece), Roman Shirokov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic) – 1 Goal.
What We’ve Learned
Poland – Rely too heavily on the fans and are pleasing to look at when Kuba and Lukasz Piszczek make decent pushes forward. But they can’t handle pressure on their back four, and now have to face Russia without their first goalkeeper. There’s no organization to their game.
Greece – For 45 minutes they were who we thought they would be. Defensive, without any intentions of attacking or scoring. But suddenly, with Salpingidis on the pitch; With Torosidis pushing forward, we saw that even down to 10 men, Greece have some football. The problems is they aren’t too inclined to use it unless they’re really forced to.
Russia – We knew they were good, but we didn’t expect their attack to look this good. Constant motion and position switching from the front 3, with fantastic support and pressure from the midfield trio (Zyryanov, Shirokov, Denisov) allowed the Arshavin-Kerzhakov-Dzagoev combo to work so well. Look too good for this group.
Czech Republic – Even in this kind of group, the sympathetic Czech look outclassed. At least they did against Russia. Not enough speed on the attack to give Rosicky decent passing options, while their back four looks a mess, without any help from the midfield. A lot of possession, but pointless. Hard to see them coming out of this group.
Netherlands vs Denmark – Both teams opened their 2010 World Cup against each other. The Dutch won then, and it shouldn’t be any different this time, although Denmark will probably look a bit better than they did two years ago.
Germany vs Portugal – The beginning of the Cristiano Ronaldo challenge against what might be the best side in Europe and this tournament. The Germans didn’t look perfect in the friendlies leading up to the tournament, but are simply a better and deeper side than the Portuguese.