Poland versus Greece, its hardly a fixture to get the pulse racing.
The Poles are alright, but nothing special and the Greeks stick to a tried and tested formula of hardline defending, transforming the beautiful game into a soul crushing war of attrition.
With this in mind I predicted a 1-0 victory for the Poles, as they’d be fired up in front of a home crowd.
Poland dominated early on, with the Greeks seeming to have forgotten the defending part of their strategy.
They looked horribly disorganised at the back and utterly toothless in attack.
Poland’s pressure is rewarded after 17 minutes when Robert Lewandowski was given far too much space and headed home after the Greek goalkeeper, Chalkias blundered out leaving him in no man’s land.
I started to worry that my prediction had been a bit pessimistic. This feeling grew when the referee reduced them to 10 men after Socratis Papastathopoulos was issued a second extremely harsh yellow.
Papastathopoulos had reason to look so upset as neither offence warranted a card, and already a goal down it looked like his teammates were stuffed.
It looked as though the Greeks were unravelling, another player booked before half time for dissent.
Greek had been unlucky, but Poland had been the better side and deserved their lead.
But as the old cliche says:
Its a game of two halves
And seemingly fired up by their sense of injustice and half time substitute Dimitris Salpingidis who makes his mark 5 minutes in after the Polish goalkeeper makes a howler.
Szczesny the keeper’s night gets worse when he fouls Salpingidis in the box.
This gives Greece a penalty and cancels out Poland’s advantage as Szczesny is sent for an early bath.
At this point I’d usually start rooting for Greece, but Salpingidis does something I can’t stand players doing:
He celebrates getting a penalty.
First of all, this is pretty presumptuous, yes, most penalties are converted but plenty of people miss. And secondly, it feels like bad sportsmanship, to celebrate it like its an achievment.
So, I was still pulling for Poland. Their substitute keeper, Tyton, walked onto the field and right into the firing line.
It must’ve been nerve wracking, and so I cheered when he blocked the shot and pretty much instantly became a hero in Poland.
Szczesny was shown looking extremely relieved in the tunnel, as Tyton’s save meant that his giving away a penalty hadn’t cost them the match.
Poland looked nervy and shaky, while Greece at least tried to snatch the game.
The match ended 1-1.
I might not have had high hopes before the match, but it turned out to be a great experience. The game was high on incident and all the things I love about sport.
Over the course of 90 minutes people became villains (Szczesny) and new heroes rose (Tyton). There was drama and controversy around referee decisions. Yes, neither side played particularly well, but it was an engaging, entertaining match.
In today’a other match, Russia thumped the Czech Republic 4-1, in a game I predicted would be a score draw.
Good thing I didn’t put money on it.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO