With two games scheduled to run concurrently and the fate of all four teams hanging in the balance, this evening’s Euro 2012 action will be short on neither excitement nor controversy. Join the conversation by leaving a comment below, defacing our page on Facebook, tweeting @TheScore_ie or firing an email in the direction of email@example.com.
Czech Republic 1-0 Poland
Greece 1-0 Russia
19.31 – Poland – Tytoń, Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek, Dudka, Polanski, Obraniak, Murawski, Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski
Czech Republic – Čech, Gebre Selassie, Kadlec, Sivok, Limberský, Plašil, Pilař, Hübschman, Kolář, Jiráček, Baroš
19.32 – Russia - Malafeev, Anyukov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Berezutski, Shirokov, Denisov, Dzagoev, Glushakov, Arshavin, Kerzhakov
Greece - Sifakis, Maniatis, K. Papadopoulos, Tzavellas, Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, Karagounis, Katsouranis, Samaras, Salpingidis, Gekas
19.37 – All four teams in Group A begin this evening’s fixtures in control of their own destiny. A draw for Russia or the Czech Republic would be enough to see the group leaders into the quarter-finals, but wins for either Greece or tournament hosts Poland would vault the “Group of Life” underdogs into the next phase of the competition.
19.42 – We’ll be following live coverage of the Czech Republic v. Poland, but providing rolling updates from Warsaw.
It’s an inconvenience for Russian fans, of course, but I consider myself fortunate to be side-stepping another 90-minute dose of turgid Greek monotony…
19.44 – Flags a’waving, children dancing, anthems a’playing… the atmosphere in Wroclaw is electric. Not in the literal sense, mind; we’re not heading for a repeat of yesterday evening’s shenanigans in Donetsk.
19.46 – The incredibly irritating countdown is about get underway… more dignified souls, we can content ourselves with this, a video of Petr Cech playing the drums:
19.51 – Poland, brimming over with enthusiasm and pride, immediately role forward into the Czech half. They’re brought to a halt (illegally) on the right wing, clearing the way for Blaszczykowski to flip a free-kick into the penalty box. It’s initially repelled, but a ricochet deposits the ball at the feet of Dudka. His bicycle kick – yes, bicycle kick – finds the side nettting.
19.55 – Poland’s effervescence nearly proves their undoing when some rash, slightly panicked defending affords Gebre Selassie space on the right wing. Hurtling towards the touchline, he squares a ball for the onrushing Pilar, only for the youngster – one of the stars of the competition thus far – to shunt a miskick high and wide.
20.00 – Oooh! An appalling defensive error from Plasil sends Lewandowski sprinting across the Czech defence. Outpacing his marker, he swings a long leg around the corner and cracks an effort into the side netting.
It should have been the opener, but the forward appeared to lose his balance through the strike.
20.02 – Polanski sends an effort screaming over the bar from the right edge of the Czech penalty area.
20.06 – The Czechs cobble together an extended period of posssession, rolling the ball back and forth across the defence. A crude long ball sent sailing out of play on the right wing ensures it comes to nothing.
20.09 – Boenisch brings another period of manic Polish intensity to a close when his long-range effort sends Cech scurrying across goal.
Moments later, it’s Wasilewski’s turn to harass the Chelsea goalkeeper, the centre-half rising above Kadlec and Sivok to nod a tame effort goalwards.
20.12 – Both sides are clearly nervous, playing with a twitchy sort of anxiety, but Poland seem to be channelling it more efficiently…
20.15 – Oh dear, it’s really beginning to pour now… RTE pans to a wide shot of the stadium and its environs. Lightning can be seen flickering in the distance.
20.17 – The Czechs concede another free-kick on the right wing. Again, the delivery from Obraniak fails to clear the first man…
Conditions are deteriorating – severely – but with so many aerial threats waiting in the box, he really should be doing better with those.
20.23 – What began as brief, high-energy forays into the Czech half are growing into longer, more languid spells of possession for the Polish.
That wave of adrenalin that carried them through the first half-hour didn’t yield a goal, but it appears to have cowed their opposition somewhat.
20.25 – Just as I say that, Baros beats the offside trap to meet a long, raking cross from the left wing. With only the ‘keeper to beat, he extends a feeble, aged leg and scuffs a volley into Tytón’s arms.
In the parlance of the internets: athleticism FAIL.
20.28 – Wee Vaclav Pilar weaves his way through a congested Polish defence before skimming a low shot towards goal. Tytón dips lows to claim it, but allows a weak rebound to roll perilously close to another red shirt.
20.30 – Pilar robbens his way infield from the left wing again before spanking an effort into Dudka’s solar plexus. Ouchie!
20.32 – Remember when I suggested Poland had lost their zip but retained the advantage?
20.38 – Half-time: Czech Republic 0-0 Poland
The Czechs can consider themselves fortunate to have weathered the opening half-hour, during which the Poles – spurred on by rabid home support – played the game at a disorientingly high tempo.
20.42 – GOAL! Greece 1-0 Russia (Karagounis)
Bill’s half-time banter is interrupted by footage of Greece taking the lead against Russia in Warsaw. The scorer, we’re told, is Karagounis – he appears to have broken free on the right wing before ducking inside and sprinting unchallenged to the edge of the area. Once there, a snaking, outside-of-the-boot effort eludes Malafeev’s grasp.
20.47 – As things currently stand, Greece and Russia would progress to the quarter-finals.
Should news of Karagounis’s goal make its way to the Czech dressing room, we could be in for an interesting second period…
20.51 – We’re back underway…
Both Poland and the Czech Republic begin the second half with their Euro 2012 campaign in the balance. Assuming Greece press on and succeed in taking advantage of Russia’s notorious psychological inadequacies, the Czech’s join their opponents in needing a win to progress.
20.53 – Slower, cagier, the opening exchanges have proven largely inconclusive. Both sides appear to be labouring under a cumbersome blanket of pressure. PRESSURE.
20.55 – Pilar continues his one-man war against the Polish defence, this time heaving a clearly illegal throw into the path of Baros. The ex-Liverpool man (and, let’s not forget, top scorer at Euro 2004) offers another variation upon his trademark theme, shanking an effort wide.
21.01 – Gebre Selassie whips another cross into the Polish penalty area, but it’s cleared to the right wing. Two passes later the ball’s at the feet of Limbersky and he’s bearing down on goal. With a shot to Tytón’s far post looking the obvious option, he elects to nudge an audacious toe-poke through the legs of the remaining centre-half.
A ripple in the side netting reveals that to be a poor decision.
21.03 – Pretty sure it’s their job…
21.08 – More fleet-footed hijinks from Limbersky on the left wing leave the Polish defence looking exposed.
Eventually, he’s brought to ground by Wasilewski on the edge of the penalty area.
The resulting free-kick is taken by Plasil, who spurns the dictats of common sense to chip a (far too) delicate cross wide of the far post. With 20 players shoving about in front of goal, why not drive something low, hard and unpredictable (keep it clean, please) into the melee?
21.11 – Oomph! A Czech free-kick from a slightly more withdrawn position on the left wing causes real problems.
Plasil’s delivery (better this time), a low, hooking effort, sweeps over the heads of Wasilewski and Sivok before finding a red shirt at the far post. The strike is a confident one, but it’s pawed away by Tytón, leaving Jiracek to claim possession near the right corner flag…
21.11 – Still 1-0 in Warsaw, apparently…
21.13 – Baros – standing on the edge of the 18-yard box, directly in front of goal – flicks a feeble effort into the Polish ‘keeper’s arms.
A minute later, he wafts the worst pass of the tournament (vaguely) in the direction of Gebre Selassie.
21.19 – GOAL! Czech Republic 1-0 Poland (Jiracek)
The Czechs launch a lightning counterattack through Hubschman, the defensive midfielder dispossessing a Pole and releasing Baros to lumber his way deep into opposition territory.
Brought to a halt just inside the box, he shuffles this way and that before slipping a pass wide left to Jiracek. The winger immediately cuts inside, wrong-footing a defender and, in doing so, creating the half-yard of space necesssary to slip a shot under Tytón and into the far corner.
21.22 – Should the next 15-odd minutes fail to yield a goal in either of the evening’s fixtures, both Russia and Poland would be eliminated!
A scarcely believable outcome, given the former’s thrashing of the Czechs a week ago.
21.26 – FACTOID:
21.27 – Rajtoral, a defender, joins the fray in place of Jiracek.
A statement of intent from the Czech bench.
21.29 – Poland, attempting to rescue glorious victory from the jaws of defeat, are attacking the closing minutes with that same intensity they brought to the opening half-hour…
21.32 – Handbags! Pilar, leaving the field of play at the pace of a tiny, tiny snail, draws jeers from the home crowd. In frustration, Blaszczykowski intervenes to push him in the direction of the touchline.
Confrontation ensues; Blaszczykowski and Plasil are issued with yellow cards.
21.35 – Finally, a Polish cross finds the head of Lewandowski, but the striker, soon to be of Manchester United (if rumour and hearsay is to be believed), nods his effort harmlessly wide of goal.
21.42 – Ouch! Blaszczykowski, marading from that familiar right wing position, outwits the Czech defence for a final time and curls a delicate, right-footed effort towards the far corner. It looks a certain goal, but a red shirt materialises on the line.
The captain grasps his head in his hands and screams out in frustration. He turns to face play as the final whistle rings out.
Full-time: Czech Republic 1-0 Poland
21.44 – Full-time in Warsaw: Greece 1-0 Russia!
Both Russia and Poland are eliminated! The Czech Republic progress to the next stage as group winners.
Fortunately, I do have words:
The Czech Republic and Greece have conspired to produce the tournament’s first genuine shock.
Russia, the team that stole the opening round of fixtures, has been eliminated.
In failing to advance, Dick Advocat’s men haven’t just exacted the most paltry of returns from a colossal endowment of natural talent and athletic ability, they’ve wrenched the tournament from its axis.
The tournament’s most boring team (Ireland not included) – a serially unambitious collection of long-ball/set-piece merchants – will now take its place in the European Championship knock-out stages.
In other words:
“Dear Andrei and chums,
Thanks for ruining the tournament.