Archive for June 9th, 2012

Euro 2012: Day 1

Welcome To The Machine. Poland 1 – 1 Greece

The three testicalled scrtotum that is the Uefa Euro 2012 logo

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and it was all of them at the same time. Co-hosts and comfortably the lowest ranked side in the tournament, Poland, played the poorest (in every sense), Greece. And while there was incident aplenty, there wasn’t much quality football on display. Indeed, if dog years are seven times real person years, then this game was played at giant hound pace. It felt like I’d aged two or three years in the space of the 90 minutes and change that this game lasted.

Just as in World Cup 2010, the hosts had all the neutral support and, if we weren’t actively willing Poland to success, we were very definitely gunning for Greek failure, the least their hugely negative tactical viewpoint deserves. And, like the South Africans, the home side scored first. And, at that point they looked firmly in control, their Borussia Dortmund spine looking effective and assured, but they were unable to capitalise on their initial possession. Even when the Greeks had a man sent off they couldn’t make the Greeks squeal.

Amazingly, in the second half the Greeks actually began to play as the Polish defence began to show its flaws. You’d have thought that a keeper like Szczesny would be used to operating behind a shaky defence after the season he’s had at Arsenal, but apparently the Polish defence is a whole new heap of rubbish. Twice Szczessa came out and both times it was a disaster, the first conceding an easy goal to the Greeks and the second bringing down Salpingidis after a delightful chip over the defence set him free on goal. It was the turning point in the game Szczessa getting the early bath and substitute keeper Przemyslaw Tyton coming on and saving the subsequent penalty.

After that it was tedium ahoy as neither side managed to make any real headway. Indeed after a few minutes it became clear that both were happy to settle for a draw and the remaining 20 minutes or so were frankly difficult to watch. Let’s hope this marks the low point in the competition.

Meanwhile Over In Some Other Part Of Poland. Russia 4 – 1 Czech Republic

Things could not have been more different. This was a fast, pacy match where the speed was due not to sides hoofing the ball over the midfield, or crazily rushing at each other in a burst of chaotic attacking play, but to two sides playing direct, on the floor passing games and running into the spaces behind each defence.

Russia were one of the surprises of Euro 2008, although they tanked it at the end and they were very impressive here. After absorbing the initial pressing of the Czechs, Russia began to assert control, dominating the midfield and ruling the wings.  Amazingly they had a fabulous new player, one Arshavin, who was continually sprightly, always looking for the ball and playing some great defence splitting passes. Surely this can’t be the same sour grumpface who sulked his way out of Arsenal earlier this year (although apparently they are one and the same).

And while the Czechs did come back to make it 2 – 1, the Russians quietly reasserted their dominance and it was game over.