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Daily Euro Recap: Greeks Comeback, Russians Cruise

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Goodbye Sir!
Goodbye Sir!

In the opener, Greece vs. Poland, there were many talking points and areas of controversy. After the opening festivities, the match was absolutely dominated by Poland. Their fluid attacks stemmed from players in the middle of the pitch playing good passes to the wings and the wings creating opportunities inside the box. With the home crowd rocking and the Greece defense not yet settled in, Poland created many chances in the opening 15 minutes, including a play where Jakub Blaszczykowski ran free onto the goal but badly messed up an attempted pass across the face of goal. Greece could not rest long however as a brilliant swerving cross by Blaszczykowski met Robert Lewandowski's head and shot into the goal in the 17th minute, although some questions had to be asked about how the Greek keeper appeared lost in a forrest rather than equipped to defend a cross. Poland largely controlled the remainder of the first half, using their pace on the counter-attack to their advantage, however in the the 43rd minute there was much controversy. After an earlier soft yellow card, Greek defender Papastathopoulos was sent off with a second yellow after impeding Lewandowski, although the decision was clearly incorrect and overly harsh.

While most people including myself expected Greece to roll over in the second half after being down to 10 men, the reality was quite different. After some early back and forth action, Greece scored one of their patented "fluke" goals, capitalizing on a mistake by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with Dimitrios Salpingidis poking home into an open net to equalize in the 51st minute. Things got worse for Poland as their defense was unlocked by a fairly simple over-the-top ball, with Szczesny subsequently being sent off for tripping lively Salpingidis in the box. Just as the drama seemed at its climax, Greece missed its spot kick, setting up an eventual 1-1 draw after a dulled Poland side couldn't find a winner in the final 20 minutes.

I have a few theories of why Poland was less dangerous in the second half, leading to a disappointing result. My first thought is that in a weird way, going down to ten men helped Greece because it led to them playing more long balls like the one that led to the penalty. The sending off also allowed Poland to take their foot off the gas petal and play more defensively. Another reason for the second half flatness can possibly be attributed to how much energy was put into the first half in response to the home atmosphere, causing them to be fatigued in the second half. No matter what caused it, the Polish will be kicking themselves for not putting the game away early while also being thankful for not losing from the penalty spot.

The later game between Russia and the Czech Republic was a lot more straightforward as Russia cruised to a 4-1 victory with two early goals and two late goals sandwiched around a lone Vaclav Pilar goal for the Czech Republic. After struggling to find possession in the very early stages, Russia scored the opener through 21 year-old Attacking Midfielder Alan Dragoev from a rebound off the post. Throughout the entirety of the match, Andrey Arshavin was brilliant in a free role on the Russian attack. His beautiful pass in the 23rd minute set up an easy chip for Zenit midfielder Shirokov to make the score 2-0. It stayed that way until the 51st minute when Pilar made it 2-1, but Russia responded well as youngster Dragoev scored again and Roman Pavlyuchenko finished of the Czechs with a great individual play and strong finish to end it at 4-1.

The MOTM was probably Arshavin, and the leading cause for the Russia victory was great counter-attacking play and poor Czech defense.