Euro 2012 Poland vs. Greece Opening Game Preview
Who will start the tournament with a bang? Lets see what will happen this time.
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Co-hosts Poland open proceedings in a Group A match against Greece at the National stadium on Friday, none of the last eight hosts have won the tournament.
Both the teams are Underdogs, But Euro 2004 champions Greece did not charm their way to the trophy eight years ago – rather they battled their way to it – but not much has changed as Greece had the lowest goals per game rate in qualifying to reach Euro 2012 (1.4 goals per game).
Under coach Fernando Santos, the Greek style of ‘men behind the ball’ turning into counter-attacking football has not evolved much and there is still a reliance on set-pieces to get them goals. The likes of goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias, Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis are all remnants from the trophy winning side of 2004 and in all honesty, there is not much between the current crop and the Otto Rehhagel version, although perhaps that’s a good thing.
Poland, meanwhile, are just looking to start well. The nation have never won a game at the European Championship, while their one previous appearance in 2008 saw them exit at the group stage following one draw and two defeats.
A lot will rely on Dortmund trio: captain Jakub Blaszczkowski, full-back Lukasz Piszczek and striker Robert Lewandowski. The weight of expectation will be heavy, but after such form perhaps realism will supplant it. A word of warning though: the last three host sides have all lost their opening games at Euros.
Poland player to watch: Wojciech Szczesny.
The last line of defence may well prove to be the most important for Poland as they will find themselves under constant pressure. Thankfully, in Szczesny, they have one of the best young goalkeepers around. The giant Pole, who has flourished at Arsenal, is as confident as they come and barks orders at his defence to get them organised without batting an eyelid. He could prove to be the difference in a tight game.
Greece player to watch: Sotiris Ninis.
At 22, the young winger has yet to reach his full potential; potential that saw him once linked with a move to Manchester United. Fast and tricky, Ninis is one of the major hopes in the attacking third for the Greece side down the flanks and his delivery will be key to ensuring that they are not totally defensive in their play. As well as providing an attacking outlet, though, Ninis’ role in tracking back will be equally as important.
The battle of the big names will likely make a huge impact on this game as Poland’s in-form striker battles his Bundesliga nemesis Papastathopoulos. Lewandowski has had a stunning season with Dortmund and has banged in 22 goals in the league this season to help them to the Double of league and cup. Charged with stopping him is 23-year-old Papastathopoulos, who did not make the grade at Milan, but is forging a career for himself at Werder Bremen.
It should be a 0-0 full time scoreline