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Euro 2012 - Group A Matchday 1 Recap

Co-hosts Poland held to a draw as Russia take pole position in Group A

Written by Christopher Kisby

Group A

Euro 2012 kicked off with a real bang in Warsaw on Friday as Greece spiked a point off co-hosts Poland despite seeing red before half time when 1-0 down. And it could have been so much more for the Euro 2004 champions who fluffed a penalty not long after Dimitris Salpigidis had restored order at the start of the second period.

Veteran captain Giorgos Karagounis blew Greece’s golden opportunity to take the lead from the spot after Polish keeper Wojciech Sczezny’s blatant foul in the area, which saw the Arsenal stopper dismissed for an early bath without protest.

The score remained at 1-1 despite both sides being reduced to ten men for the last twenty minutes - a result which will do little to aid either nation’s qualification chances with Russia and the Czech Republic on the horizon.

And Poland will be even more disappointed having started the game so brightly – Robert Lewandowski’s early strike did justice to the hosts energetic approach which was of stark contrast to the Greek’s who were woeful throughout the first 45 minutes.

So with Poland and Greece failing to land the odds in the tournament curtain-raiser, it was over to Russia and the Czech Republic in Wroclaw to try and stamp their authority on Group A.

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And it was Dick Advocaat’s Russia who managed to do so with aplomb.

A superb brace from Alan Dzagoev and goals from Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko eased them to a fine 4-1 success over Michal Bilek’s men who may feel they could have pegged their opponents back when in the ascendency midway through the second half.

Indeed, the Czech’s were perhaps a little unfortunate to be on the receiving end of such an emphatic score line after seeing so much of the ball after the break.

But it was the first twenty five minutes which really hurt the Euro 1996 finalists who were exposed time after time by a ruthlessly efficient Russia on the counter-attack. At 2-0 down, the Czech’s were always chasing the game but found some hope after Vaclav Pilar steered home to reduce their arrears on 52 minutes.

Suddenly, Russia’s seemingly unassailable lead was looking frail and the Czech’s looked a good wager in the live betting to snatch at least a point.

Nevertheless, Advocaat’s charges soaked up a lengthy spell of pressure before putting the game to bed thanks to Dzagoev’s second and an assured finish from Pavlyuchenko who had replaced the tireless yet misfiring Aleksandr Kerzakhov.

Many people believe that it is a sign of a good team who can win so comfortably despite not playing particularly well. If that notion is true, Russia certainly fit that bill and could be a surprise threat to the favourites as the championship progresses.

Two matches down, twenty nine to go and of course a wealth of punting opportunities at Titan Bet over what should be an enthralling three weeks of football – at least if the opening day is anything to go by.