The Euro’s kicked off last Friday night when joint hosts Poland took on 2004 winners Greece. What was predicted to be a poor match turned out to be excellent drama and set the tone for the rest of the first set of matches.
Robert Lowandowski scored the first goal of the tournament as Group A got under way and the Greeks were soon reduced to ten men following two inexplicable yellow cards from Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo. It seemed that the Greeks were dead and buried at half-time, but the setback merely stimulated them into action. They dominated the play with a man down and levelled the game shortly after half-time through Dimitris Salpingidis. Giorgios Karagounis had the chance the put Greece infront from the spot after Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was dismissed for a professional foul. The replacement keeper, Tyton, saved the penalty and although both teams pushed for the victory, it finished 1-1.
Before the tournament, Ruud Gullit predicted that this would not be an attacking tournament with few goals. Well the Russians, for one, failed to read the script. A 4-1 crushing win over the hapless Czech Republic raised more than a few eyebrows. A brace from Dzagoev, plus efforts from Shirokov and Pavlyuchenko put the Russians in pole position in Group A.
Group B saw the Danes pull off the shock result of the round through a 1-0 win against the much fancied Dutch. Denmark were well organised but 28 attempts of goal is testament that Holland were terribly wasteful infront of goal. With Mario Gomez heading Germany to a 1-0 win against Portugal, the Germans know they could eliminate their old adversaries should they take all three points in their game on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Danes will be hoping for a repeat performance against Portugal and if so, they may be celebrating their qualification out of the ‘Group of Death’ with a game to play.
In Group C, Spain and Italy played out a 1-1 draw with striker-less Spain equalising through Cesc Fabregas after Antonio Di Natale classily put the Italians ahead with his first touch. Fernando Torres came on to show that sometimes playing without a striker is actually more effective infront of goal. Meanwhile, the Emerald Isle was given a sound beating by the Croatians, who were 3-1 victors. Trapattoni’s boys now have to beat Spain to have any realistic chance of qualifying for the next round.
Finally, England and France battled out a 1-1 draw in the battle of the dark horses in Group D in Donetsk. Amid humid conditions, Joleon Lescott headed England into the lead but the Three Lions were pegged back less than ten minutes later when Samir Nasri beat his club colleague, Joe Hart, with a near post drive from 20 yards. Although the French pressed throughout the game, England had the clearer chances but both sides will be pleased that they avoided defeat. Andrei Shevchenko turned back the clock with a double that inspired Ukraine to a 2-1 win over Sweden. The Swedes went ahead through captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic only for the Shevchenko to send the home fans wild with two headed goals.
Looking ahead, this week’s game of the round is undoubtedly Holland vs Germany. In addition, Italy vs Croatia is likely to be a cracker and can Ireland produce a monumental shock by defeating the defending and world champions?
Categories: Euro 2012