Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Poland 1, Greece 1

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source:  Man of the match: It was a curious halftime substitution, Greece bringing on a forward for somebody who could play midfield (after going a man down). Fernando Santos obviously knew his team well, because veteran Dimitris Salpingidis was the right move. In the 51st minute, Salpigidis poached an equalizer, and midway though the second, he won a penalty kick and red card, evening the numbers.

NBC Sports: Poland held by Greece as two sent off
As it happened: Monday’s action from Euro 2012’s opening night

Packaged for takeaway:

  • What a disappointing result for Poland. You come out, dominate the first half hour, and take a one goal lead into half time with a man advantage. Then not only do you fail to get full points, you’re lucky to get one after a penalty kick isn’t converted.
  • Experience is largely overrated (and overused, but commentators). Tonight, it really seemed to matter. Poland seemed naive in the second half, never working to put the game away when they had control. Greece, on the other hand, overcame their disadvantage and, by full time, were clearly the better side.
  • After the first half hour, it was clear Poland had three advantages, none of which they used in the second half:
      1. Greece couldn’t handle the right side of Poland’s attack. Robert Lewandowski would come back and play forward to Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek (all Borussia Dortmund players). The combination was almost never stopped and produced Poland’s only goal (a first half header from Lewandowski from a Kuba cross). In the second half, Poland only threw Piszczek forward once.
      2. Poland was dominant on set pieces in the first, but in the second, they never pressured the Greece defense enough to earn more opportunities.
      3. And twice in the first half, Poland had jailbreak counter attack chances. Greece played too deep in the second to concede any counters.
  • Aside from Przemyslaw Tyton’s penalty kick save (becoming the first substitute `keeper to save a kick in the tournament), the goalkeeping was terrible. Kostas Chalkias took himself out of position on Lewandowski’s opener, while a meek decision poorly executed left Wojciech Szcesny’s goal open for the equalizer. Szczesny also got himself sent off after he took down Salpingidis. Normally you’d saw Poland will miss him, but as bad as he was today (with little to do), they probably won’t.
  • As Gareth Southgate would later point out, Giorgios Karagounis had a ton of time to wait before the penalty kick. Tyton was allowed a lot of time to come on after Szczesny’s unexpected sending off.
  • It bares repeating: Poland abandoning the advantages they had down their right was ridiculous. The three best players on the field were Lewandowski, Blasczcykowski and Pisczcek, none of whom were a factor in the second.
  • Instead, Poland’s defense nearly gave away the game. Central defenders Damien Perquis and Marcin Wasilewski were continuously beaten by passes chipped over their head, while left back Sebastian Boensich kept Salpingidis onside on the play that saw Szczesny sent of.
  • Greece deserves a lot of credit, though. At halftime, I said Fernando Santos’s first priority needed to be keeping this a one goal game, the idea being Greece had little chance to advance should they leave the match with a -2 difference. Instead, Santos helped orchestrate an unexpected point.
  • But neither of these teams look like quarterfinal material. Group A is weak, but it’s not weak enough for the two teams we saw today to advance. Both teams need improved defenses before they take the field again on Tuesday. And it needs to be made clear to Poland’s players: They have to put in 90, not 30, minutes.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

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Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Air Lines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle teams picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match and even sign one-day contracts. Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

Kim In-chul/Yonhap via AP
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Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.

Zabaleta staying in Premier League with West Ham move

@WHUFC
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A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.

The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.

[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]

The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.

From WHUFC.com:

“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.

“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”

Maybe he just wanted 3G.

Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.

Valencia extends Man Utd deal to great Mourinho praise

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.

Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.

“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”

Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.