Chance to Pole up A Greek Tragedy
Group A: Poland vs. Greece
Friday, 08 June 2012
1800 (local time); 1200(EST); 2130(IST)
National Stadium, Warsaw
The Euro 2012 finally gets underway at the swanky new National Stadium which is the largest footballing arena in Poland. Built for the Euros, the National Stadium has a unique retractable PVC roof which unfolds from a nest on a needle suspended above the centre of the pitch. But while all talk should be focussed on the match at hand, controversies over anticipated racial abuse and law and order situation. However with the football finally starting, one can hope that the controversies will take a back seat.
The hosts have not won the tournament in almost three decades and for Poland to attempt anything contrary to this trend, have to drum up a win in the opener tomorrow. Arguably in the weakest group, Poland can ill afford to slip up against the 2004 champions, when they have a resurgent Russia and a rebuilding Czech Republic.
The Greeks, never anyone’s favourite team, are probably a very grey horse for the tournament. They never inspire confidence, yet they went through the qualifying tournament unbeaten and only conceded 5 goals in the process. As has been their wont, they have built their team on a solid defence. On form, they shouldn’t have any problem in progressing from the group but countering a passionate host in the first tie should be crucial to any such ambition.
Poland has not had a good time at all in the European championships. In fact they have only ever qualified for one European championship – the last one and didn’t get out of the group stages. As hosts, they didn’t need to qualify and hence only played friendlies and their form wasn’t impressive enough, though they did beat lowly Andorra 4-0 last week.
The Greeks only ever qualified for 3 European championships, but can proudly proclaim to have won the trophy in 2004. Their qualification record was perfect but they have not really been dominant in the friendlies.
Teams & Formations
The hosts bank on Robert Lewandowski, who was the third highest scorer in the just concluded Bundesliga without scoring via any penalty kicks. Lukasz Piszczek is probably one of the top right backs in Europe and has been courted by clubs like Milan and Real Madrid. Coach Franciszek Smuda lines up his team in 4-2-3-1 formation and creativity of Ludovic Obraniak and his linkup play with Lewandowski should be crucial for the Polish chances.
Poland (4-2-3-1): Wojciech Szczesny; Lukasz Piszczek, Marcin Wasilewski, Damien Perquis, Sebastian Boenisch; Rafal Murawski, Eugen Polanski; Jakub Blaszczykowski, Ludovic Obraniak, Maciej Rybus; Robert Lewandowski
Manager: Franciszek Smuda
Portuguese born Fernando Santos was elected by the Greek Football League as the best coach of the decade. He favours a 4-3-3 formation which tucks into a 4-5-1 without the ball. Celtic hitman Giorgios Samaras has the same role as Angelos Charisteas from the 2004 squad. Schalke man Kyriakos Papadopoulos and former Milan flop, Sokratis Papasthapoulos form the central defensive pairing and how they cope with Lewandowski will probably decide the match.
Greece(4-3-3): Konstantinos Chalkias; Vasilios Torosidis, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, José Holebas; Georgios Karagounis, Konstantinos Katsouranis, Ioannis Maniatis; Dimitrios Salpingidis; Theofanis Gekas, Georgios Samaras
Manager: Fernand Santos
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)
“The first step is always the most important step, and the first step is the Greece match.”
Poland captain Jacob ‘Kuba’ Blaszczykowski
“We don’t have anything to fear against Poland. I believe we can repeat our effort of 2004 when we spoiled the opener for the home team.”
Giorgos Tzavellas, Greek defender.