Yesterday’s Poland-Greece 1-1 draw was one of the most exciting opening tournament matches that I can remember, possibly since Cameroon shocked Argentina at Italia 90. France losing to Senegal in 2002 had a similar shock factor, but yesterday’s game had everything: red cards, missed penalties, goalkeeping errors and refereeing controversy, as well as a brilliantly-taken goal by Robert Lewandowski.
The Borussia Dortmund striker was named as the official man of the match, presumably by a committee who took the decision at half-time. Greece’s second-half substitute Dimitris Salpingidis had a strong case for the award, after he scored Greece’s eqiualiser, won the penalty that Poland’s replacement keeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved from Giorgos Karagounis, and had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside with the assist.
The Greeks thoroughly deserved their point, even if the result threatened to take the edge off the hosts’ opening party. But Warsaw’s residents carried on partying anyway, with impromptu late-night gatherings at bars on the banks of the Vistula river that runs alongside the National Stadium.
Lewandowski is the undoubted star of the Poland squad. His chiselled looks feature in the shaving foam ad that is prominent in the ad breaks between TVP2’s live match coverage.
Woijech Szczesny is the Polish representative in the crowd-surfing Pepsi ads that also feature Frank Lampard those well-know Euro stars Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero. Forget the curse of Nike, welcome to the plague of Pepsi. Official tournament sponsors Coca-cola will probably be celebrating with something a little stronger.
I’ve been getting a few comments from people – I won’t call them complaints, maybe constructive criticism! – about our Euro 2012 special edition. A few have highlighted the fact that we did not include Jetro Willems, the young Dutch left-back, in the Holland squad, or even in the “Also in Contention” list.
Willems, aged 18 years and 71 days, became the youngest player to feature at the European Championship when he played in Holland’s defeat earlier today. He beat the previous record held by Enzo Scifo, who was 18 years and 115 days in France in 1984.
Willems has come from nowhere to international contention in a matter of weeks, so it’s no surprise that we did not include him on a list that was compiled in early April – such are the deadlines for a monthly publication that was despatched to the printers before the end of April.
We try to provide a snapshot of the selection issues facing each national coach, providing people with the background issues to help analyse the final squads. If we miss the odd player, or late injury, so be it. That is the nature of the beast.
We don’t claim to be predicting the final squads, but I’m always happy if we get 18 or more of the final 23. We tend to average around 19 or 20.
While we’re on the subject of our Euro 2012 guide, I’ll draw your attention to the headline on the Danish section: “Ignore at your peril.”
It’s been a quiet day in Warsaw, it feels like a rest day with today’s matches taking place in Ukraine. There’s not the usual, mad travel between venues common in previous tournaments, as people opt for either Poland or Ukraine.
I had been planning to drive from Warsaw to Lviv for the Germany-Portugal game but the rental car office in Warsaw advised against. In Ukraine it’s illegal to drive a rental car hire in Poland. “They won’t let you in,” was the no-nonsense advice even though Holiday Autos, the UK company who I made the booking through, had insisted I could take the car into Ukraine. Thanks, Holiday Autos. Suffice to say, you’ve had your last booking from me.
By Gavin Hamilton