Archive for June 14th, 2012

Euro 2012: Day 5

Is That All That There Is To A Fire? Greece 1 – 2 Czech Republic

Now, aside from one nice chip over the Polish defence, the Greeks have come bearing the same gifts as usual. Sheer bloody minded obduracy and precious little else. And you know what? That’s been better than good for them since 2004. Here it lasted all of 6 minutes and it was effectively game over.

Two sweet strikes and the Greeks were, to all intents and purposes, back on the beach. 3 minutes in bash! the Czechs, no super threats themselves, were one up. 6 minutes in and it was 2. And the Greeks had no answer. As always they were a frustrating mass of carefully organised defence (two easy goals conceded aside), a vague midfield and Georgio Samaras up front. Now Samaras has played at numerous clubs, but essentially he’s a poor man’s Nicklas Bendtner, for him six goals a season for a midtable Prem side would be a massive step up. And he never looked like a threat, much less a goalscoring one here.

The only other moment of note was provided by Petr Cech, who attempted to give both Szczesny and Given a run for their money as the most gaff-prone keeper at the tournament. It’s saying a lot that he actually came close to eclipsing both of them with his ill-fated rush and finger fumble, which presented Gekas with the easiest of easy tap ins (the kind not even Milner could miss). Fortunately for Cech, who appears to have used up all his luck in the Champions League final, it wasn’t fatal. Sadly for the rest of us the Greeks could still miraculously qualify from this group.

Your Euro 2012 Starts Here. Poland 1 – 1 Russia

Does this man look happy or what?

Pity the poor Poles. Unkindly done in by the Greeks thanks in part to the weight of expectation bearing down on them in the opening match, they had to watch the Ukrainian fairy tale unfold in Matchday 4. Now facing the team of the tournament so far, Russia, they couldn’t afford to lose. Politics, both real world and footballing, demanded some kind of a result. Talk about a pressure game.

And having gone a goal down to the Russians, things looked a bit black. If this had been Engerland, you’d have heard all sorts of commentary about Captain Marvel, Terry Butcher etc. Instead we got the story of the tournament so far. A fabulous cracking volley from outside the area from Polish captain and scrabble winning hand Blaszczykowski. The sort of goal that didn’t just get you up from the couch going, “What a goal!”, but lifted up an entire country. Finally, the Poles had found some kind of self-belief and they then turned the tables on the previously dominant Russians and spent the rest of the match attacking their goal.

Despite the storybook nature of the Sheva show in Ukraine, this was the best match of the tournament so far, featuring the only team that has played really inspiring (as opposed to effective, efficient or just plain awful) football and a team that needed their own kind of fairytale. With the result of the Czech Greek match, the Poles now have their future in their hands. Beat the Czechs and they’re into the next round. On this evidence they’ve got every chance of joining Russia in the knockout stages.