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In an opening match that that the bookies believed was going to be an unexciting and uneventful opener for the start of Euro 2012, Greece was able to come away with a point in a 1-1 draw against the host nation Poland. The game turned into a dramatic 90 minutes of international soccer. Thanks to the help of Dimitrios Salpigidis, who was substituted into the game at the start of the second half, Greece was able to save themselves from molding Group A into the predicted shape.
The first 10 minutes of the match were completely dominated by Poland, who took advantage of the weakly defended right side of the field. In the meantime, Greece tried to keep up with the barrage of offense that the host nation kept throwing at them. Poland was finally able to capitalize in minute 17 when Lukasz Piszczek was able to get through the Greece defense and cross the ball into the box. It was then headed in by Robert Lewandowski.
Greece seemed to be heading down a slippery slope when Sokratis Papastathopoulos received a yellow card in minute 35, then another in minute 44, resulting in him receiving a red card and being sent off the field. Both calls were considered extremely harsh due to the lack of justification for each call, and the first half ended on a very disappointing note for the losing Greece side.
The second half began with an instant substitution made by Greece. Salpigidis was brought in for Sotiris Ninis, leaving three attacking players out on the field even though they were playing a man down. It only took five minutes for the substitute to make his presence known by hopping on a loose ball that was poorly played by Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, and hammering it into the net to tie the game up at 1-1.
The tying goal led to a change in tactics for both teams, and to several minutes of frustrating soccer for the audience. Greece began playing a game of attrition, hoping to come out of the game with a draw. Poland, on the other hand, continued to press on the attack even though they were unable to capitalize on several chances.
When Poland’s luck seemed at its lowest point, they were struck with another blow. Goalkeeper Szczesny was shown a red card for completely missing the ball in a tackle attempt, which in turn brought down the Greece forward Salpigidis in the penalty box and gave Greece a penalty kick. Poland’s second-string goalkeeper, Przemyslaw Tyton, came into the game without warming up and was about to face a penalty shot that could end the game early for his team. But in the end, the 25-year-old goalkeeper was able to save the penalty shot taken by Giorgos Karagounis and keep Poland in the game with 20 minutes left to play.
Although both teams had their chances, in the end both were not able to finish, leaving the game at a 1-1 draw.
Almost all of the action in the game came from players that started the match on the bench. If every game is as entertaining as the one played between Poland and Greece in the tournament opener, this is going to be an amazing month of international soccer.
Poland’s next match will be against the group-leader Russia on Tuesday, while Greece faces off against the Czech Republic earlier on the same day.