UEFA European 2012 Championship: Day 1

Friday 08 June 2012 – Day 1

Unfortunately before a ball is kicked, the first racist incident of the tournament has been reported, as a section of Poles attending a Netherlands open training session are heard making monkey chants at the black Dutch players. Presumably UEFA will be keen to play down the incident, whilst the Polish football authorities will simply ignore it. I maybe wrong and this might turn out to be an isolated incident, but let’s wait and see shall we…

Meanwhile on the pitch, the opening games took place in Group A:

Poland        (1) 1 – 1 (0)  Greece

The was a classic ‘game of two halves’. Roared on by a home crowd, Poland were dangerous from the start and having exposed the Greek defence on the right on a couple occasions, it was no surprise when the Poles took the lead. On seventeen minutes Jakub Blaszczykowski crossed and Robert Lewandowski headed in for the home team. His cause was helped by Greek keeper Chalkias who came for a cross he was never going to get. Poland looked in full flow and had a number of chances to increase their lead. The game looked over before half-time when Papaststhopoulos was sent off for two yellow card offences, neither of which were worthy of a booking and the Greeks went in at half-time fuming at the errors of Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo. However, it seemed to spur Greece on and substitute Salpingidis helped turn this game on its head. Suddenly the Greeks had energy and their equaliser on fifty minutes was deserved. Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis got behind the Polish back four and Wojciech Szczesny in goal for Poland never got near the cross and Salpingidis slotted home. Things got worse for Szczesny when on sixty eight minutes he was sent-off after bringing down the lively Salpingidis. However, Karagounis had his penalty saved by substitute keeper Przemyslaw Tyton. The Polish crowd that in the first-half had been lively and hostile became increasingly subdued as the second-half went on and by the final whistle were probably grateful that their team had got a point. It had been a lively opener to the competition, not the usual cagey game that often starts a major championship. Greece were probably happier by the end of ninety minutes, considering how thinks look at the end of the first-half.

Russia         (2) 4 – 1 (0)  Czech Republic

The second game in Group A was also slightly surprising, in how easily Russia overcame the Czech Republic. Admittedly, the Czech Republic were poor and if Russia had been more ruthless in front of goal, then the margin of defeat would have been greater. Kerzhakov was particularly wasteful in the second-half and paid for his profligacy when he was substituted on seventy three minutes. Dzagoev and Shirokov had given the Russians a 2-0 lead at half-time, but an early second-half Pilar goal brought the Czech Republic back into the game. However, Russia continued to look dangerous and goals on seventy nine minutes and eighty two minutes from Dzagoev and Pavlyuchenko sealed a convincing win. The Russians took the three points and an early lead of Group A.

Tomorrow Group B begins with the first game up between the Netherlands and Denmark (Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv), followed later by Germany against Portugal (Arena Lviv, Lviv). The Netherlands have emerged as one of the giants of European football in recent years with an impressive record at the European Championship Finals. The Dutch didn’t enter in 1960 and then didn’t qualify in 1964, 1968 and 1972. Their breakthrough came in 1976 when they finished third, overcoming Yugoslavia. 1980 saw the Netherlands unable to progress from the Group stages and in 1984 didn’t even make the Finals. However in West Germany in 1988, the Dutch became Champions, coming through as Group runners-up and upsetting the hosts 2-1 in the Semi-Final before securing the title with a 2-0 win over the Soviet Union. Four years later the Dutch couldn’t hang onto their crown as unfancied Denmark dumped them out on penalties in the Semi-Final. In 1996, penalties were once again to account for the Netherlands, as France advanced past them at the Quarter-Final stage. As co-hosts in 2000, the Dutch strode into the Semi-Finals to face Italy, but doing a fairly good impression of England, lost out on penalties again. In Portugal in 2004, the penalty horrors were overcome in a shoot out with Sweden in the Quarter-Finals, only to lose to hosts Portugal 2-1 in the Semi-Final. So to 2008 where have gone unbeaten in the Group stages, the Dutch lost out to Russia 3-1 (aet) in the Quarter-Finals. Qualification for 2012 was pretty comfortable, dropping just three points (a loss 3-2 to Sweden). The Dutch come into the tournament on the back of a 6-0 win over Northern Ireland. Expect the Orange machine to be there or thereabouts at the business end of the competition.

Despite not being perceived as one of the big names in European football, Denmark have a decent record in the Finals. In 1964 they lost in the Semi-Finals to the Soviet Union, but it was twenty years before they qualified again. In France the Danes reached the Semi-Finals once more, this time losing out to Spain on penalties. Four years later in West Germany it was an unhappy experience for Denmark as they lost all three Group games to rivals Italy, Spain and West Germany. Qualification for the event in 1992 looked to have passed the Danes by when they could only finish as runners-up to Yugoslavia. However, with civil unrest in that country, Denmark were called up to replace Yugoslavia. In an incredible twist of fate, the Danes went onto win the competition. They came through the Group stages after a draw with England, a loss to Sweden and victory over France. This set up a meeting with the Netherlands in the Semi-Finals. The Danes looked to be going through as they lead 2-1 with just four minutes remaining. However, Frank Rijkaard equalised for the Dutch and the game went to extra-time and eventually penalties. Denmark scored all five as Van Basten missed for the Dutch. In the Final, the Danes ignore the underdog tag and goals either side of half-time from Jensen and Vilfort, saw the Danes crowned as Champions. Despite qualifying for the Finals in 1996 and 2000, Denmark exited without getting out of the Group Stages. In 2004 the Danes made it to the Quarter-Finals only to be well beaten 3-0 by the Czech Republic. The Danes qualified for Euro 2012 by topping their Group, with Portugal as runners-up. In their last outing, the Danes overcame Australia 2-0, but could struggle in a group with the likes of Germany and the Netherlands. However, Euro 1992 showed that anything is possible.

Well what can you say about the Germans? In qualifying for Euro 2012, they won all ten fixtures winning the Group by thirteen points. Their record in the Finals is also as imperious, winning the European Championship on three occasions (1972. 1980 & 1996) and runners-up on three occasions (1976, 1992 & 2008). However, they can have their blips as in 2000 and 2004 the Germans didn’t qualify out of the Group Stages. This time around though the Germans look a force again and will be hunting that fourth crown.

Portugal made it to the 2012 Finals after a play-off victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-2 on aggregate. Portugal failed to qualify for any of the tournaments between 1960 and 1980 before getting to the Semi-Finals in 1984, losing 3-2 in extra-time to hosts France. There was a gap of twelve years before Portugal made the Finals again and at Euro 1996 made it to the Quarter-Finals where they lost 1-0 to the Czech Republic. Indeed Portugal have had reasonable success at the Finals since, reaching the Semi-Finals in 2000 (losing to France in extra-time), were runners-up to Greece in 2004 and in 2008 were knocked out in the Quarter-Finals by Germany.

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Posted June 8, 2012 by Editor in category "UEFA 2012 Euro Championship