Day: June 8, 2012

Euro 2012: Russia 4-1 Czech Republic

There is a school of thought which suggests that part of the reason behind the global success of football lays in its occasionally ruthless depiction of the fallibility of humanity. We watch this game above all others for the brilliance and the horrendous, and all stops in between. The first match of the 2012 European Championships demonstrated this in spades. Both Poland and Greece were sporadically excellent and horrific, and the result was a match which surpassed the low expectations that most had for it before it started. Moreover, their draw meant that this evenings game between Russia and The Czech Republic kicked off with this most enigmatic of groups looking no more resolvable than it had a couple of hours earlier. Within twenty-five minutes of kick-off in Wroclaw this evening, however, this fog had started to lift. Russia had intermittently sparkled at the last European Championships but had followed this up with a failure to qualify for the World Cup finals, while the Czechs have flattered to deceive since reaching the semi-finals of the competition eight years ago, only qualifying for this tournament thanks to a ropey last minute penalty kick against Scotland in their group and a play-off win against Montenegro. Having edged through the play-offs, there had been few signs of any improvement on their part in recent months and with some wondering whether Russia, with...

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Euro 2012: Greece 1-1 Poland

Euro 2012 kicked off with a bang as the opening game served up something for everyone. Two goals from comedy goalkeeping errors, a controversial sending off, a cast-iron sending off, a saved penalty and an inspired substitution gave more memorable moments than most opening games put together. Poland started strongly with Jakub Blaszczkowski, Robert Lewandowski and Rafal Murawski all testing the Greek defence, with Costas Chalkias tipping the latter’s effort over the bar. Lukasz Piszczek puts in a great low cross for Lewandowski, but Vassilis Torosaidis does just enough to keep the Polish number nine from making contact, but it only takes seventeen minutes for the co-hosts to take the lead. Ludovic Obraniak finds space on the right, and feeds the ball so that Blaszczkowski can complete the run. Blaszczkowski puts in an outstanding cross, which deceives the defence, and tempts the Greek keeper Chalkias into coming out too far, and too late, and it allows an unmarked Lewandowski to power a header into the empty net. It’s exactly the start a home side needs in tournament like this. Poland 1 Greece 0. After the goal, both defences push up – the Greeks in order to stem the flow of Polish efforts, and the Poles, in order to protect their lead. With Greece just playing with Theofanis Gekas up front, they find it difficult to create anything, and only...

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Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – England

Perfidious Albion. The pantomime villains of international football. The team that everybody loves to hate. This year, however, it had been starting to look as if England might have had a quieter time of things. Thrashed out of sight by Germany at the World Cup finals two years ago, a few weeks of navel-gazing was followed by not a great deal changing as everybody’s attention turned back to the Premier League and the Champions League but, while qualification for the finals of the European Championships this summer was achieved with relatively little fuss by Fabio Capello, this coach has now gone – angered by the FAs decision to strip John Terry of the team captaincy – and replaced by the avuncular Roy Hodgson. The new man, however, has found that there is no such thing as a “quiet” time for this team, with an ongoing – and, one rather suspects, still brewing – row over which players should have been taken to the finals is now threatening to overshadow what small increments of progress he had managed in his first two friendly matches in charge of the team. The History: Where to begin? It was the Football Association that first codified the game in 1863, and England played in the worlds first international match against Scotland in 1870. There has been little plain sailing since then, though. A row...

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