By Nate Jacobson
The first game of Euro 2012 was everything a soccer fan could ask for. Poland and Greece drew 1-1 in a game that included well-taken goals, two red cards and a saved penalty kick.
I watched the game at 9 Muses Bar and Grill in Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood. There was great Greek food, a big TV and over 50 soccer fans watching the match. There were mostly Greek fans, but also a table of Polish supporters.
Fans started to file in right when the game started. Poland dominated the opening half and was able to freely get chances by attacking the right side. Robert Lewandowski scored of a cross from fellow Borussia Dortmund teammate Jakub Blaszczykowski. Lewandowski headed the ball down and it bounced past Greek goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias.
Poland was able to have liberty on their right side because Greece left winger Georgios Samaras seemed disinterested in defending. Samaras missed two chances later in the match and it was obvious that the Greek fans at the restaurant were fed up and disappointed with the longhaired player.
The first half ended in controversy as Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo sent off Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos for a second yellow card. Both offenses were questionable of being a card at all.
Greece regrouped down a man and scored six minutes into the second half through substitute Dimitrios Salpingidis. It was a surprising goal and the Greek fans went wild. A Greek cross from the right wing caused danger and the ball sat still for Salpingdis.
The game took a dramatic turn when goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny took down Salpingidis on a breakaway. Szczesny was sent off and backup Przemyslaw Tyton came in off the bench cold. The Greek fans were elated, but when Tyton saved Giorgos Karagounis’ spot kick they were shocked the handful of Polish fans had the last laugh:
The substitute Salpingidis was involved again when he put the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was waved back for a correct offside call.
The Greek fans were very happy that they played an inspired second half to get a draw. The Polish fans were disappointed that they gave up a lead to a ten-men team.
Russia 4, Czech Republic 1
Two goals from Alan Dzagoev got Russia’s Euro 2012 campaign off to a dream start.
Everyone knew Russia had the talent and they played convincingly in the first half. Dzagoev scored a quarter-hour in off a great build up. Russia responded nine minutes later when Andrei Arshavin’s through ball found Roamn Shirokov, and the midfielder beat goalkeeper Petr Cech. Arshavin was creative and dangerous the entire match.
Vaclav Pilar drew one back for the Czech Republic in second half and it felt like they could find an equalizer. However, Dzagoev scored on a brilliant strike in the 79th minute and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added one for good measure.
Poland plays Russia next Tuesday in Warsaw. Czech Republic stays in Wroclaw to play Greece.
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