Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland opened the tournament with a draw against Greece. Group A's second game saw more goals, with Russia easily sweeping aside the Czech Republic.
The Polish National Stadium in Warsaw was clearly filled with fans of the home side, but Greece managed to overcome Poland's home field advantage and a period of the game played with a man down to scrape together a 1-1 draw in the opening match of Euro 2012.
Play got underway between the two sides after a 20-minute opening ceremony that featured a performance of an etude from Polish composer Chopin by Hungarian pianist Adam Gyorgy.
Once the match started, Poland quickly went on the offensive, with Bundesliga teammates from Borussia Dortmund Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski repeatedly attacking on the right wing. Seventeen minutes in, Lewandowski smashed in a header after a perfectly placed cross from team captain Blaszczykowski.
Twenty minutes later, Greece's Sokratis Papastathopoulos was given a yellow for a challenge on Lewandowski and shown a second a few minutes later for bringing down Rafal Murawski. Greece headed into halftime playing man down.
The disadvantage didn't seem to bother the Greeks who came out looking stronger in the second half. Dimitris Salpingidis came on as a substitute, and made his presence quickly felt by scoring the equalizer in the 51st minute.
Salpingidis nearly had a second goal in the 69th minute but was brought down in a one-on-one with Poland's keeper Wojciech Szczesny in front of the goal. The play got Szczesny booked and sent off, and earned a penalty for the Greeks.
With Przemyslaw Tyton on in goal for Poland, Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis readied himself to take the kick. Despite being on the pitch for all of a minute, Tyton blocked the kick and preserved Poland's 1-1 tie.
Russia take on Czech Republic in late contest
The second match of the night had Russia taking on the Czech Republic in Wroclaw.
The Czechs began the game brightly, dominating possession and threatening the Russian defense several times in the first 10 minutes.
Soon though, the Russians would begin to get more of the ball and they and were rewarded for their efforts in the 15th minute when Alan Dzagoev drove the ball past Petr Cech after Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s downward header had been kept out by the far post.
By the 24th minute the Russians took complete control as Roman Shirokov got on the end of a perfectly weighted through ball from Andrei Arshavin and dinked the ball over Cech, who had gone down trying to make himself wide after he’d come off his line.
The score remained 2-0 to Russia as the two sides went off for the half-time break.
The Czechs came out of the dressing room looking to get back into it and did so in the 52nd minute when Vaclav Pilac nipped in behind the Russian defense to run onto a clinical through ball from Jaroslav Plasil. He first sidestepped the Russian keeper before sliding it in from a bad angle to make the score 2-1.
The Russians weren’t to be denied though, as Dzagoev got his second of the match in the 79th minute. Roman Pavlyuchenko capped off a strong individual effort to make himself some space and fired the ball home past several defenders and Petr Cech in the 82nd minute, less than 10 minutes after he had come on as a sub.
That made the final score 4-1 for Russia, giving them exactly the kind of start to the campaign that they were looking for. Coach Michal Bilek and his Czech Republic squad will look to use the next three days to regroup ahead of the second match, against Greece on Tuesday.
Author: Matt Zuvela, Chuck Penfold
Editor: Richard Connor