Poland and Russia, as expected, gave us the more entertaining match in a not stop affair, clouded by the pre-match violence that ended in yet another 1-1 draw for the hosts, leaving Group A wide open. Earlier on day 5 of Euro 2012, the Czech Republic rebounded from their opening loss with a quick blitz to nearly put Greece out of the tournament with a 2-1 win.
Czech Republic 2 Greece 1
It was over before you could say Papadopoulos. Greece had to play with the younger Papadopoulos and Katsouranis as centre backs, which resulted in two quick fire goals from the Czechs – Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar, putting them up 2-0 after five minutes and twenty seconds, the quickest opening brace in tournament history.
The Greeks, as they always do, came back through their slow and effective game, building on a lot of crosses and set pieces, with another substitute striker, this time Theofanis Gekas, managing what resulted in a consolation goal, as the team need to win but that alone might not be enough to somehow qualify from this group. For the second time in this tournament, they’ve had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside.
Poland 1 Russia 1
All week the rumors of possible violence didn’t prepare people for the bloody images on the Warsaw streets after clashes between Polish and Russian fans. In the stadium, the tension resulted in amazing atmosphere and very high tempo match, with the Russians controlling the first half and scoring through Alan Dzagoev, finding the net for the third time in the tournament.
The second half was all Poland, as Andrei Arshavin did what he usually does for Arsenal. Hold on to the ball too long and make dumb decision near the box, while Poland kept pushing through their Dortmund trio until Jakub Blaszczykowski scored the best goal of the tournament thus far, leaving Poland with the need to beat the Czech Republic in the final match.
Group A Table
1. Russia, 4 Points (5-2)
2. Czech Republic, 3 Points (3-5)
3. Poland, 2 Points (2-2)
4. Greece, 1 Point (2-3)
1. Alan Dzagoev (Russia) – 3 Goals
2. Mario Mandžukić (Croatia), Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine), Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic) – 2 Goals
3. Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Dimitris Salpigidis (Greece), Roman Shirokov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark), Mario Gomez (Germany), Antonio Di Natale (Italy), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Nikica Jelavic (Croatia), Sean St Ledger (Ireland), Joleon Lescott (England), Samir Nasri (France), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Petr Jiracek (Czech Republic), Theofanis Gekas (Greece), Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland) – 1 Goal
What We’ve Learned
Czech Republic – Not as soft as the first match against Russia suggested, but were a tad lucky to come out with the 2-1 win that leaves them in a good position to qualify, with a draw probably enough to make it through. Can’t keep a high level of play and pace for a long time, which makes them rely on their defense and goalkeeper, which can’t be 100% counted on.
Greece – Unlucky with injuries, suspensions and goals that should have been allowed. But still, Greece don’t excite and don’t try enough for the full 90 minutes to get good results, relying too much on trying to win free kicks and somehow create something through them.
Poland – Played a very good second half in which at some point they realized that the Russian expect them to try and pass every ball to Robert Lewandowski. Kuba was the first to realize that doing something else might be beneficial. Starting Adrian Mierzejewski for Obraniak might be even better for Poland, who need to beat the Czech Republic in the final match to qualify.
Russia – Played their usual pass and move game in the first half, putting them deservedly in front. It all disappeared in the second half, as they didn’t attack with the same numbers and failed to maintain the same pressure on the Polish midfield and defense, with Andrei Arshavin trying to do too much on his own. Maybe Pavel Pogrebnyak deserves a shot up front.
Denmark vs Portugal – All the pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, who have lost to Denmark twice in the last four years during qualifiers. The Danes can play their usual style of sitting back and counter attacking, which suits them just fine.
Netherlands vs Germany – THE match of the group stages and the Dutch moment of truth. Probably have to win to stay alive in the tournament. Problem is the team they’re facing are feeling confident and are probably a better team.