Co-hosts face 2004-winners.
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Euro 2012 gets off to a decidedly unspectacular start in Warsaw as co-hosts Poland – the lowest ranked team in the entire competition, at 62nd on FIFA’s official list – take on former winners Greece.
Both sides go into the game in decent form, with Poland having lost just once in 12 games (to Italy, no less), while 2004 Champions Greece can boast only one defeat in 21 matches under coach Fernando Santos.
With this in mind, a draw really does look the most likely outcome but the Polish will be hoping a huge home crowd in the National Stadium can help them to victory in this Group A opener. But it’s worth remembering that in 2004 Greece defeated the hosts Portugal in the opening game, a result that was dramatically repeated in the final. Some bookmakers will offer odds of 300/1 that these two will be reunited in the final on 1 July.
Prediction: 1-1, a bore draw.
Team news: Defender Damien Perquis is doubtful, after sustaining an elbow injury in March.
Familiar faces: Only Arsenal ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny plays in the Premier League but forward Pawel Brozek spent the second-half of last season on an unsuccessful loan at Celtic. Fans of the Bundesliga will recognise plenty of faces, including Borussia Dortmund trio Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Lukasz Piszczek who helped the Germans claim the League and Cup double last season.
One to watch: Lewandowski. The Polish number 9 was named Bundesliga player of the season after bagging 22 goals for Dortmund. Sir Alex Ferguson is an admirer.
Quote: “In my opinion, in a moment they will be gone from Borussia. Lewy’ is going to Manchester United, Kuba also somewhere in England, Piszczek to Real (Madrid)” – Poland Coach Franciszek Smuda will not be on Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp’s Christmas list, after touting his three Polish stars for summer moves away from the Bundesliga club.
Stack attack: Poland are unbeaten in their last six games with Greece (W4, D2, all friendlies), keeping clean sheets in the past four meetings.
What to expect: Plenty of home support but not a lot to cheer.
Team news: Vassilis Torosidis is doubtful after suffering a knee injury in a friendly against Slovenia. Star man Sotiris Ninis should be fit, despite missing the Greeks’ last warm-up game with a shoulder problem.
Familiar faces: Celtic striker Georgios Samaras is the only UK-based player in the squad but Euro fans should remember Giorgos Karagounis. The vertan midfielder scored the opening goal of Greece’s victorious Euro 2004 campaign against Portugal.
One to watch: Sotiris Ninis. The 22-year-old is a ray of light in a generally gloomy Greek side. The Albanian-born creative midfielder has just completed a move from Panathinaikos to Serie A side Parma. He’s speedy and skilful.
Quote: “If you cannot win then you must not lose because it is the first match” – Greek Captain Giorgos Karagounis. Playing for a draw much?
Stat attack: Greece scored fewer goals (14) and collected more cards (27 yellow, one red) than other team that qualified for Euro 2012. Those 14 goals were split between 11 different players.
What to expect: Graft and teamwork but only Ninis will offer any relief to the purists.
FANCY A FLUTTER?
Outside bet: Poland win 3-2: 60/1