Celebrating club football and shining the light on incompetent and biased journos indulging in stereotyping and negativity.
So the European national football championship is finally off to a great start, and I am not talking about the ceremony, which is scrupulously avoided by monitoring the Djokovic-Federer game that was on at the same time. No, the appraisal refers to the opening game opposing 1/2 hosts Poland to Europe’s boo boys, Greece. Although it ended 1-1 after Greek captain Karagounis failed to take the advantage for his side from a penalty kick, it was a most entertaining and fairly dramatic affair, with Borussia Dortmund’s in form hot commodity striker Lewandowski confirming his potential by grabbing his first of the tournament. The two red cards, one for each side, also raised the intensity. Though Greece will rue the missed penalty that could have brought them precious 3 points, they can probably be quite satisfied to grab one point from this first and always delicate fixture against the hosts where they were clearly not the favorites.
What follows is less match commentary than a team review, the format of which I will try to build on during the following games – enjoy, comments welcome.
Poland-Greece, Friday June 8, 2012 – 18h kick-off
Greece Team Profile
Hollywood factor: This one has to go to Giorgos Samaras as young Evan Almighy, although defender’s Holebas haircut and vociferous complaining to the ref (after claims for a penalty for a handball by Polish defender Perquis fell on deaf ears) could easily have him landing a minor role in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.
Old/mean man kudos: Either captain Karagounis, for sheer experience, or Dimitris Salpingidis the goalscorer, for his greater “300” hard man coefficient (respectable beard helping).
French connection (1): A lonely Giorgos Tzavellas (on the bench, unsubstituted) featured in this year’s resurgent Monaco side. Otherwise it is difficult challenge to make the connection, as Greek players resolutely prefer the German Bundesliga as their main export destination. Who says Greeks and Germans can’t get along? Or that the Greeks don’t fancy the Euro?
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: I could see Roberto Martinez fancying the deft footwork of young Ninis to rejuvenate his Wigan side. Otherwise, Sam Allardyce may already be on the phone for hard man Salpingidis.
Poland Team Profile
Hollywood factor: In the tradition of the inimitable Ralph Macchio, we could easily see the hosts’ goalkeeper, Szczesny, adopt the funky “Z-man” moniker (on the strength of the two Z’s in his name) and develop a great career playing nerdy kids up until the age of 40.
Old/mean man kudos: none whatsoever – this is clearly a bunch of young boys with plenty of acne to boot, à la Gunners quoi. The only alternative may be coach Smuda, but only if eligibility guidelines are relaxed.
French connection (1): Ludovic Obraniak, the “outsider” to this team who has shown his talent at Bordeaux this season after leaving Lille following their title win in 2011. Too bad he couldn’t demonstrate more of that on the few opportunities he had to make the difference this evening.
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: Though his complex name may considerably reduce journo enthusiasm, Błaszczykowski’s carefully crafted metro-sexual (Beckham-approved) hairstyle, as well as regular forays into the final 3rd of the opposition’s half, and the superb cross for the first goal, will surely suffice to make him a UK tabloid darling for a reasonably priced move to the EPL – at the very least at QPR, maybe even for Liverpool (if Benitez was still there). Alternatively, Newcastle United might be tempted to increase their francophone credentials with Obraniak. Failing all that, Lewandowski might also find his way there, perhaps at Arsenal with his buddy Szczesny (especially if RVP moves on).
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Historic moment of the match: in a heavily symbolic moment that will have the rest of Europe cheering in approval, the unfortunately (Tintin baddie-like) named Greek defender Papastathopoulos sees the first red of the tournament, as Greece is reduced to 10 men. Cue riots in Athens.
Hero of the game: it’s a close call between super subs Dimitris Salpingidis (goal + won penalty for the Greeks) and Przemyslaw Tyton, the sub goalie whose first intervention consisted in saving the penalty shot from Karagounis.
(1) According to the official French media essential elements guide by the excellent Subfoot.com (read article), there has to be one.