Poland v Greece - Before, During and After
Wallchart up? Check. Wallpaper on laptop? Check. App downloaded? Check. Numerous guides collected and read at great length? Check. Early finish at work? Check. I'm all set for the Euros to begin.
And what better way than a game between the host nation and the 2004 Champions?
Well, actually they'd be a lot better ways to start things off. If you listed the 16 nations in terms of entertainment, then these 2 would probably be ranked in the teens! Poland were win less and excitement less 4 years ago, and even presented previous hosts Austria with their only point. That was still a point more than the Greek's managed. Greece's 08 campaign will largely be remembered for Zlatan Imbrahimovic's wonder goal against them and an excellent Russian performance in the following game, that ended the Greek challenge.
The Russians could well be the big stumbling block this time around. They look the strongest team in Group A and defeat here will leave either side facing an uphill battle to reach the quarter finals. Which hopefully means that both teams will be going all out for a victory.
Poland will be hoping that home advantage helps them into the knockout stages. Although the precedents aren't great. Since the competition expanded to 16 teams in 1996, only Belguim have secured an opening day home win. At least the Poles look stronger then 4 years ago. In Wojech Szczesny they have an outstanding keeper, Roman Lewandowski is fresh off a title winning campaign with Dortmund in which he scored 30 goals and Lukasz Pisczczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski were regulars in that same Dortmund side.
The Greeks don't have much in terms of star power, but they will be hoping for some of the collective spirit that carried them to an unlikely victory in 2004. It's never easy to get excited about a Greek side, and this is no exception. At least their most forward thinking players (Gekas, Samaras and Nunis) have names that don't take 5 minutes to type out!
I'm predicting a turgid 1-1 draw, probably with a penalty and a tap in included somewhere. I'm hoping for a 3-3 thriller with a couple of red cards and a mass brawl.
What a pleasant surprise. That was an entertaining 45 minutes of football. Poland look a very slick and enterprising team. The Dortmund triumvirate have wrecked havoc. In particular the right back Pizczek who has had the Greek left back on toast. The goal on 17 minutes came as no surprise. Lewandowski looked sharp throughout and took his goal well, although Chalkias attempts to deal with the cross gave me flashbacks to the days of Bertrand " Bertie the Bus" Bossu's time in the Gills goal!
Truth be told, they could have had a few more. Chalkias made a great save from Murawski, Lewandowski was inches away form converting a Pizczek cross and Perquis missed an easy chance after more comedy defending.
For the Greeks, err Samaras worked hard, but still looks like he should be in Kasabian. both full backs were a joke, and to round things off Sokratis (I'm using his first name!) got a very soft red card just before half time. The second yellow card was debatable, the first wasn't even a foul. Add to that, a rejected penalty appeal just after, and the Greeks left the field looking like they wanted to smash a few plates in the dressing room.
All in all though it's good fun so far. Poland have exceeded my expectations and will be hoping to grab a few more in the second half. I'm changing my prediction to a 3-0 home win with another Greek red card thrown in!
Back at full time with the Verdict!
I suspected this style of reportage would leave me looking stupid! At least I predicted a 1-1 draw beforehand. Pretty much everything else I predicted has been proved completely wrong. An absurd second half saw Greece improve beyond all recognition, whilst the Poles seemed to freeze with the game at their mercy.
Another example of how not to claim a cross (this time from Poland's soon to be 2nd choice goalie Szczcesny) saw the impressive sub Salpigidis smash the ball into the empty net. It looked like the match was going to turn completely on its head when Szczesny took out Salpigidis when he was threw on goal. However, sub keeper Tyton put down his sudoku game, trotted off the bench and saved Karagounis's weak penalty.
Greece had the better of the closing stages, but their chances fell to the inept Samaras, who may work hard but his shooting was embarrassing.
The previously lively Lewandowski was reduced to feeding off scrap and aside from one drive into the side netting was largely anonymous. The Dortmund duo on the right disappeared and the Poles struggled to keep hold of the ball.
In truth, 1-1 was probably about fair as both teams dominated a half but didn't take their chances. From a neutral point of view it was a brilliant start to the competition. Goals, incidents, controversy, errors and some rubbish BBC coverage.
Russia v Czech Rep - A look at ITVs Coverage
Poor ITV, they always lose out in the ratings battle and despite the BBCs often insipid analysis, they never seem to do enough to take over the mantle as the No1 terrestrial football channel. Maybe this time things will be different. I'll be looking at the Beebs coverage in a few days time, but first up I'll be looking at the way Channel 3 (as I always know them as) cover their 1st game of the Euros - the attractive looking Group A clash between Russia and the Czechs. I'll be looking at various elements of the ITV programme and then comparing it to the BBC efforts next Wednesday. The winning channel wins my viewing presence for the Final on July 1st!
The theme music is Peter and the Wolf, which is a nice, whimsical piece of classical music. However, when it is combined with some Spitting Image type figures, it looks like you're listening to the intro music for a low budget knock off of a Pixar film. The figures look a tad sinister and appear to be of important people from the history of the Euros...and Roy Hodgson...and Robbie Keane.
To ITVs credit, their studio looks great, with a lovely view of Warsaw and some stylish (if slightly Holiday programmeesque) furniture. They possibly should have thought about soundproofing the studio though as local musicians seemed to have no trouble penetrating the glass throughout the programme.
Adrian Chiles seems to think he's still on Daybreak. The emphasis is very much on a light entertainment style of presenting with "comedy" asides and attempts at banter. The problem is that Chiles has been presenting football on ITV now for a few years, but hasn't improved at all. After just 2 minutes there was a protracted silence as Chiles struggled to interact with his panel. Chiles response was a light hearted "This is going rather well isn't it?". Much more of this and I'll be starting a "Bring Back Matt Lorenzo" campaign!
Keane, Viera and Southgate appear to be the ITV A team for this month. Viera took the honours on day one with some insightful comments and proved that at least he'd tried to find out about some of the players. By contrast, Southgate and Keane were happy to just mention the PL connections involved in the match and assume that the teams would play exactly the same as in previous competitions.
Keane is especially disappointing and in stark contrast to his on field persona. This was epitomised by his insightful verdict on the Poland-Greece encounter - "It was a game of 2 halves." I just want to be told something I don't know, is it too much to ask?
Peter Drury and Jim Beglin are regulars at big tournaments. Drury has an excellent knowledge of the game and clearly does a lot of research. Admittedly some of it does sound like he's reading from a script, but you try and remember the exact movements of the Czech squad over the last 5 years! Drury also gets excited when there's a goal, something a lot of modern commentators frown upon. Personally, I like it. It's a goal, it's meant to be exciting so go along with it.
Beglin isn't quite as good, but holds his own well enough. He is sometimes guilty of coming out with some odd turns of phrase - "Arshavin looks in the mood tonight". We never found out what Andrei was in the mood for, but apparently he's very good when he's in the mood. I don't really mind quirks like this, it's better than the deliberate attempts at comedy (I'm looking at you Lawrenson!) that some co-comms use.
Pretty good...apart from the bits in the studio. 6/10
Next Up: A Haiku and a report from my local pub!