For those who don’t know, the 2012 European Football Championships (Euro 2012), began earlier today and the first two games are now in books. This tournament is the 14th European Championship for national teams which is held every four years (in the even numbered year between World Cup competitions) and this summer’s event is co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine. Between now and July 1, 16 nations will be competing for the Henri Delaunay Trophy, named in honor of the first General Secretary of UEFA and the man who came up with the idea to stage a European Championship. Also at stake is automatic entry into the 2012 FIFA Confederations Cup to be held in Brazil as a prelude to the 2014 World Cup. For those who have never watched a European Championship, it is definitely a big deal to these teams and to these countries and as the tournament develops I would encourage you to check out some of the intense matches that will unfold over the next few weeks. On this blog I will be recapping some of the noteworthy events from the tournament, but my writing can’t do a tournament of this magnitude justice so please check it out if you have a chance.
Match One: Poland 1 – Greece 1
The first match of the tournament featured one of the co-hosts, and appropriately also two teams from Group A (the 16 finalists in this tournament are divided among 4 groups, with Group B widely considered to be the “group of death”). It was also a very entertaining match and one that reminded me that officiating is not only bad in basketball (and football when Ron Cherry is around) but in other sports as well. Stunningly, an official who handed out 16 red cards in 19 La Liga matches (Spain’s top league) this season was invited to officiate the first match of this prestigious tournament. Whoever’s call it was to allow Spain’s Carlos Velasco Carballo to officiate this match should be ashamed of how today’s match played out, as both teams finished the game with only 10 men after some highly questionable calls.
Despite an early goal from Robert Lewandowski, Poland was held to a 1-1 draw in front of their home crowd of 56,070. Second half substitute Dimitris Salpingidis scored just 6 minutes after coming on at half-time as a deflected cross fell invitingly to his feet and with the goalkeeper committed to the initial pass Salpingidis was able to slot the ball into the open net to level the score in the 51st minute. Throughout the rest of the second half, Greece had the better chances, including in the 71st minute when Salpingidis was taken down on a clear breakaway by the Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny resulting in a red-card for the keeper and a penalty kick for the Greek. Poland’s backup goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton came on and delivered a superb diving save of Giorgos Karagounis’ penalty and the game remained at the 1-1 score line that it finished at after the 90 minutes were up.
Match Two: Russia 4 – Czech Republic 1
I didn’t really have too much interest in this match, and apparently the players on the Czech Republic were of the same mindset as me. In this battle of the other two teams in Group A, Czech Republic looked totally overmatched and Russia’s attacking game-plan seemed to fluster the Czech’s defensive line and goalkeeper Peter Cech. Alan Dzagoev scored twice for the Russians, and a pair of Roman’s (Shirokov and Pavlyuchenko) added the other two goals for Russia, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 24th minute and never looked back. Vaclav Pilar scored the lone goal for Czech Republic in the 52nd minute, but to be honest they never really looked to be in the game.
Schedule for Day 2 (Saturday, June 9)
11:45 AM (EST): Netherlands vs. Denmark
2:45 PM (EST): Germany vs. Portugal