• Wednesday, 13 June 2012

    Yesterday at the Euros #5

    From ITV's vantage point in Warsaw, you had a hint as to what was going on elsewhere in the city. Behind the assembled punditry team were lines of riot vans and tooled-up rozzers. On Russia's national day, somehow it managed to kick off ahead of Poland v Russia, not helped by the city authorities allowing a march by Russians through the streets of Warsaw. Perhaps they thought it better to allow this and contain it as best they can for fear of further stoking trouble, but 300 years of often bitter conflict between the two nations is always likely to overspill even when Russians aren't marching through the Polish capital and unfurling a huge banner inside the ground declaring 'This is Russia'. It was a busy night for police with over 100 arrests, water cannon and plastic bullets deployed. In short - what a mess.

    There was some football too. Firstly, the Czech Republic beat Greece after coming flying out of the blocks and scoring two in the first five minutes. Firstly, a delicious Tomas Hubschmann through-ball met a well-timed diagonal run from Petr Jiracek who beat Kostas Chalkias easily. Theodor Gebre Selassie looks a tidy full-back and got forward to good effect shortly afterwards, his speculative ball across the six-yard line was not dealt with - or dealt with very badly - by both goalkeeper and two defenders. Vaclav Pilar squeezed between two and poked it in with his knee. And the cue pretty much went in the rack at that point. Greece were not good, but did get a lifeline from Petr Cech who fumbled a routine ball into the path of Theofanis Gekas who doesn't often spurn open goals. These mistakes have been becoming more common in Cech's game which has to be a worry for club and country. But the Czechs held out against Greece's pop-gun attack with little further alarm.

    On the field, Russia and Poland served up a treat. End-to-end football throughout was highly enjoyable and a draw probably the right result. Alan Dzagoev got  his third of the tournament, looping an Andrei Arshavin cross past Przemyslaw Tyton with his shoulder with ten minutes left in the first half. The equaliser came on the hour, Jakub Blaszczykowski curling an absolute beauty beyond the reach of Vyacheslav Malafeev. Perhaps there are signs of discord in the Polish camp though as Ludovic Obraniak was clearly miffed at being subbed off late on. Prior to the tournament, he'd been vocal in expressing the difficulties he and Damien Perquis - both French-born - were having in integrating into the side. Hopefully for Poland, it was just frustration and there are no underlying issues that resulted in Obraniak's bottle-kicking strop.

    Russia lead the group on four points from the Czechs on three, Poland on two and Greece on one. Russia can only be eliminated if they lose to Greece and there is a winner in the Poland v Czech Republic game. A draw is enough for the Czechs in their last game - Poland need to win, no matter what happens elsewhere, as do Greece.

    Today, it's group B and it could all be over if Denmark and Germany both win their games against Portugal and the Netherlands respectively.

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