As it happened, Euro 2012 Friday: Poland-Greece, Russia-Czech Republic get it started

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Somebody screwed up and let June 8 come. Tournament co-hosts Poland kicked us off at noon Eastern, facing 2004 champions Greece. At 2:45 p.m. Eastern, 2008 semifinalists Russia faced the Czech Republic in Wroclaw.

And what did PST? This thread, while not as active as a true minute-by-minute, kept PSTers up-to-date throughout the day. There was also the crew on Twitter ([SD], [RF], [ND], [JP]), our Euro 2012 main page, and the coverage at NBC Sports.

Here’s how the first day of Euro 2012 went down (for chronological order, read from bottom to top).


(all times Eastern)

1336: Russia 4-1 Czech Republic: Final. And that is it. The Czech defense was terrible, but four goals in a major competition is nothing to look down on. Russia delivers an opening day message and routs the Czech Republic.

1324: Russia 4-1 Czech Republic: It’s 2008 all over again. Russia’s ready to be our prom date once more. Roman Pavlyuchenko with a great goal. The former Spur gets the ball wide left, takes 12 little touches to break down the defense, get a shot of from 17 yards on his right foot, beating Cech inside the left post. Cech got a hand to it, but just under two meters off the ground, it was a tough ball for a diving `keeper to stop.

1321: Russia 3-1 Czech Republic: Dzagoev has his second. Pavlyuchenko feeds the CSKA starlet, who’s taken advantage of more Czech disorganization to find space behind the line a the edge of the area. His payload could have been saved if wan’t hit so dang hard. It’s 3-1, and much of the world is getting their first look at one of the Russian Premier League’s best players.

1317: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: Nervy moment of Russia. Tomas Rosicky with a shot form 22 yards out that Malafeev can only get a paw to. The ball kicks straight up in the air and comes down in Slava’s arms as Milan Baros is closing in. Bilak makes his second change, bringing on Milan Petrzela for Petr Kiracek.

1315: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: Roman Pavlyuchenko on. Fernando Torres off.

1313: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: Kerzhakov is looking like Fernando Torres. Here he gets another opportunity at the edge of the area. He cuts back onto his left foot, sending Michal Kadlec to ground, and lets go of a shot that goes eight feet wide. He needs to come out.

1311: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: Kerzhakov get another chance, generated on the counter attack. Again, he can’t get an uncontested shot on frame. At some point, Advocaat may want to change it up. A player like Pavlyuchenko can provide some of the hold up play and, depending on which Pavlyuchenko shows up, actually get the ball o goal.

1309: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: We may have just seen Dick Advocaat’s latest trick. Though Yuri Zhirkov’s been getting forward on the left, Aleksandr Anyukov has been pinned much of the night. Here, Anyukov burst forward to get on a long ball from the middle. He controls, cuts back, finds a man in the middle, who plays it back out. Just as the Czechs are gathering themselves, Zhirkov is bursting forward on the left. He gets the ball then chips a cross back. Nothing comes of it, but it was a different type of attack than the others we’ve seen from Russia tonight.

1307: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: Arshavin started on the left, but all of his dangerous moments have come from the right. Here he cuts in against Michal Kadlec and creates enough room to feed Kerzhakov, who beats Tomas Sivok with a run to eight yards out. With only Cech to beat, Kerzhakov pulls it wide. He’s been great in the build up, but finishing? Kerzhakov’s been terrible.

1305: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: Swashbuckling no more, Russia is playing the Czech Republic on even footing. Either the goal took the proverbial wind out of the virtual sails, or the field really is lopsided (and the Czechs are now playing downhill). The Czech defense seems much more organized this half.

1257: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: A glimpse of two things which could carry over from the first half. First, the Czechs earned a corner, after which we got to see more shaky Russian set piece defending. That did produce a counter, though. Russia remains dangerous there. A few moments later, again in transition, Roman Shirokov gets a chance to blast a ball from 20 yards out. He puts it over and out.

1255: Russia 2-1 Czech Republic: Pregame, we said Igor Denisov and Roman Shirokov would have to protect the defense. Allowing Jaroslav Plasil to stand on the ball and pick out a run is not protecting your defense. Plasli fed a ball through the defense for Vaclav Pilar, who’d beaten Aleksandr Anyukov with a run along the line. One touch got the ball beyond a charging Vyacheslav Malafeev, allowing the Woflsburg midfielder to make it 2-1.

1252: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: Russia’s opened the half with confidence, arrogance, and control. That built to the last chance, with an interception by Zhirkov leading to a counter that produced a chance from 16 yards for Aleksandr Kerzhakov. He’s embarrassingly wide, but Russia looks set to … hah! Of course. Update coming.

1548: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: We’re back, and Bilak has made one change. Jan Rezek is off. Tomas Hubschman, a defensive-minded midfielder, is on.

1546: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: Halftime Talk about stats not telling the tale … Possession: Russia 52-48 Czech Republic; Shots: Russia 6-7 Czech Republic; Shots on target: Russia 2-4 Czech Republic.

1533: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: Halftime. Reminder: Guus Hiddink failed to get this Russia team to the last World Cup, losing a playoff to Slovenia.

1530: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: A cros from the right finds Vlclav Pilar coming in from the left to battle Aleksandr Anyukov. He out-leaps him and puts a ball on goal that’s easily saved by Malafeev, but it’s a reminder that anything in the air has given Russia trouble. The Russians have not been good on set pieces, but Michal Bilek doesn’t have enough targets on the pitch to take advantage of what they generate from open play. The Czechs need to rbing on Tomas Necid at half time.

1526: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: The Czechs seems to be coming back into this match now. For the last 20 minutes, they’ve been holding on. Now, just minutes before halftime, they seem a have a little more control on what’s going on. They haven’t been able to threaten Vyacheslav Malafeev, but at leas they’ve stopped the Russians from playing downhill.

1518: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: Another amazing chance for Russia. The Czechs just can’t stop the ball one Russia starts coming forward. This time, it’s a chance built through the left of the box, with a ball played back to the spot for Kerzhakov by Zyryanov put over the crossbar. Russia’s been amazing in the way they’re bursting at the Czechs, but the Czechs are way too open to deal with this.

1513: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: Kerzahov has proven to be the right choice up top. Dick Advocaat picked him ahead of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak, and you can see why. Kerzahov has made all the right choices with the ball at his feet, proving the key to the dynamism that Russia’s showing going forward (they look like they’re playing downhill). Here he finds Arshavin sprinting down the right. A ball played through the six omes to nothing, buy Zyryanov almost got to it.

1509: Russia 2-0 Czech Republic: The Czechs can’t defend, and the Russians are being ruthless. Andrei Arshavin gets a ball from Roman Shirokov and move toward the box. From 24 yards out he plays a ball that looks like it’s targeting Kerzhakov is actually destined for Shirokov, making a run to the right post. Petr Cech could get it but takes a bad angle and has to flatten his angle. Shorikov chips it over the Chelsea `keeper for a two goal lead.

1506: Russia 1-0 Czech Republic: It’s more than just counterattacking for the Russians. Since their sluggish start, they have been the vastly better side.

1504: Russia 1-0 Czech Republic: Another great counter from the Russians. Yuri Zhirkov forces a turnove then bursts into attack. The ball’s played to Zyryanov how finds Kerzhakov, who plays it back to the right for Dzagoev. From 16 yards out, the 21-year-old has his second in his sights only to put it high and wide of goal.

1500: Russia 1-0 Czech Republic: Russia pounces off a turnover, bursts into an attack that produces the first goal. A ball played wide right by Andrei Arshavin for Konstantin Zyryanov is crossed for Aleksandr Kerzhakov at the far post. He puts it back across goal, hitting the post. The ball comes out for Alan Dzagoev, how puts the bal into the left of goal for the opener. That’s just too good.

1451: Russia 0-0 Czech Republic: Where many were concerned about Russia’s possession game, it’s the Czechs that have held the ball for most of the first seven minutes. Russia doesn’t look good. They were very poor on the two set pieces the Czechs have won thus far.

1444: Russia 0-0 Czech Republic: Our day’s second match has just started, the Russians kicking off. This one should be good.

1435: From UEFA: “Ian Holyman, Municipal Stadium Wroclaw: With both teams’ home kits the same colour, the stadium is virtually wall-to-wall red. Virtually, that is, bar for a Scotland flag incongruously strung up in the stand near the halfway line.”

1434: NBC Sports: Poland held by Greece as two sent off

1425: Who wants Russia-Czech Republic lineups? Courtesy UEFA:

Czech Republic (4-2-3-1): Čech, Gebre Selassie, Kadlec, Hubník, Sivok, Rezek, Rosický, Plašil, Pilař, Jiráček, Baroš SUBS: Laštuvka, Drobný, Suchý, Limberský, Rajtoral, Petržela, Hübschman, Kolář, Darida, Necid, Pekhart, Lafata.

Russia (4-3-3): Malafeev, Anyukov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Berezutski, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev, Arshavin, Kerzhakov SUBS: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Glushakov, Semshov, Pavlyuchenko, Pogrebnyak.

Igor Akinfeev doesn’t get the start in goal for Russia, a team that’s going to have a lot of dynamism with both Alan Dzagoev and Andrei Arshavin in attack. Roman Shirokov and Igor Denisov will be crucial protecting the defense.

For the Czech republic, Tomas Rosicky and Jaroslav Plasil will make the team go. The question is whether Milan Baros is still the man that can provide the end product.

1411: The next match starts at 1445. We’ll have the lineups soon. In the interim, our match report for Poland-Greece is up.

1353: Poland 1-1 Greece: Final. Tyton receives hugs from his teammates for saving the draw, but Poland has to be disappointed with the result. Greece was the better side in a half they started by playing 10 vs. 11. Poland never used any of their advantages in the second half, leaving the game to be taken.

1345: Poland 1-1 Greece: A coule of touches and a moment of danger from Robert Lewandowski reminds us: Poland’s best player is still on the field. At this point, most of the Poles are playing like a team that’s accepted their disappointment.

1339: Poland 1-1 Greece: Greece continues to try and play passes over the Poland line. The latest one from Fortounis is short, but Boesnich’s header acts as a knockdown for Samaras, who puts a chance over.

1337: Poland 1-1 Greece: Signs of life from Poland. Obraniak and Murawski play a long one-two through a surprising amount of space in Greece’s defense. The second ball sends Obraniak through the right channel, though a bad touch sees him give up a goal kick.

1333: Poland 1-1 Greece: Poland is an absolute mess. A long ball to Samaras leads to flick toward the line for Holebas. His ball into the six sees Salpingidis put the ball into the back of the net, but the flag is up. Holebas was just offside running into Samaras’s header.

1328: Poland 1-1 Greece: Unbelievable. Greece plays another ball over the Poland defense, and a nice touch from Salpingidis forces Wojciech Szczesny to take him down. Szczesny sees straight red, and young Przemyslaw Tyton has to come on (for Maciej Rybus). His first action is a great save on Hiorgos Karagounis, who struck a decent ball to the lower right corner only to see it blocked out. We’re 10-on-10, 1 to 1.

1326: Poland 1-1 Greece: Another curious substitute for Greece. They’ve brought on Kostas Fortounis for Fanis Gekas – a midfielder for a forward. Salpingidis will likely play a lone striker as Greece plays 4-4-1.

1322: Poland 1-1 Greece: Another very scary moment for the hosts. Greece has a throw in down their left and, upon putting the ball back in, see very little pressure from Poland as they move the ball back to the middle. There Kostas Katsouranis sees Marcin Wasliewski way out of position. His chip gives Giorgios Samaras a open shot from left of goal, though the Celtic attacker’s unable to put it on frame. Now, right back Vasilis Torosidis seems hurt. Greece has only one sub left and, momentarily, are playing with nine.

1319: Poland 1-1 Greece: As to be expected, Greece are sitting very deep. With 10-men and an equalizer, I’m sure they’d be happy to call it a day. Poland doesn’t seem to have made their adjustments. At least, there’s not urgency, and more concerning, we’re not hearing much from Piszczek in attack this half. He constantly got forward from right back in the first. Right now, he’s a bit of a forgotten man.

1316: Poland 1-1 Greece: Kyriakos Papadopoulos gives up a foul 24 yards out, even with the left post. A strangely positioned wall gives Ludovic Obraniak too much of the right side of goal, but the Bordeuax man pulls it wide.

1309: Poland 1-1 Greece: Greece’s first spell on the ball of the half sees a chance generates a chance down the right, a ball put toward the spot from the line. Fanis Gekas charges for it as Wojciech Szczesny comes out, but the goal’s left open as the ball drops. Salpigidis poaches an equalizer, with Piszczek (on the line) unable to do anything to stop it.

1307: Poland 1-0 Greece: Poland has started the second half strong. Greece has started holding on. Both Maciej Rybus and Lewandowski have had dangerous moments in the first couple of minutes. Poland looks to have another goal in them.

1304: Poland 1-0 Greece: A bit of a strange substitution for Greece. Sotiris Ninis is off. Dimitris Salpigidis is on.

1258: Poland 1-0 Greece: Halftime, and Greece now need to shift focus. You take your chances to find an equalizer, but this isn’t the knockout stages. You don’t open yourself up for it. Goal difference has to be the main concern for coach Fernando Santos. If they concede a second goal and take a -2 difference into matches against Russia and the Czech Republic, Greece may need full points to advance. A -1 difference is just a loss, and getting through on four points is more likely.

1249: Poland 1-0 Greece: Halftime

1247: Poland 1-0 Greece: The former champions are on the brink of falling apart. A handball from Perquis that’s usually whistled is missed or ignored by the referee, denying Greece a potentially equalizing penalty kick. While protesting, left back José Holebas picks upa yellow card. Karagounis has to keep his team away from a suddenly card-happy official.

1244: Poland 1-0 Greece: Unbelievably Papastathopoulos’s day is over. The first yellow card was unfair, and making the second unfortunate. The Greek defender takes down Murawski and sees his second yellow card. Greece is down to 10, who (as expected) had trouble defending the restart.

1235: Poland 1-0 Greece: Sokratis Papastathopoulos earns the first yellow card of the tournament, adjudicated to have jumped through the back of Lewandowski contesting a long ball from Szczesny. Replay says it was a bad call. Moments later, Avraam Papdopoulos has to come off, with Kryiakos Papadopoulos coming on in his place. On the restart, Poland generates another opportunity off a restart, with Damien Perquis pulling a left-footed shot wide from 12 yards out.

1233: Poland 1-0 Greece: Over the last 4-5 minutes we’ve seen Greece spend more time on the ball. I’m not sure this is as much their doing as Poland not maintaining the intensity they showed at the onset. To be fair, it would be difficult for Poland to play 30 minutes on point like that, and per some reports we’re hearing in the commentary, it’s quite humid in Warsaw (a situation perhaps caused by the roof being closed on what’s reported to be a nice night).

1227: Poland 1-0 Greece: With the two Poland’s earned in the last minutes, the hosts are up to three set piece opportunities so far (two corners, one free kick). On each one, they’ve given Greece a small scare. That in addition to the threat they’re posing from open play hint there are more Polish goals to be had.

1222: Poland 1-0 Greece: Avram Papadopoulos has been off for the last couple of minutes with an apparent knee injury … and as I type, he comes back. Kyriakos Papadopoulos continues warming up.

1218: Poland 1-0 Greece: The hosts score the first goal of Euro 2012, and no surprise they did their damage going down their right. Blasczcykowski gets behind the defense along the line and crosses for Lewandowski deep at the far post. Chalkias takes himself out of position coming for a ball he can’t get, and Lewandowski heads down into an open net.

1214: Poland 0-0 Greece – Another chance generated down Poland’s right. Lewandowski is at the center of it. Pisczcek is at the end, pulling a sharp angle shot wide instead of feeding the ball into the six.

1212: Poland 0-0 Greece – Greece gives Poland a very small scare. Perquis gives up a free kick 40 yards from goal. Karagounis plays a nice ball for Gekas at the spot, his fast post flick going a couple of feet wide. Szczesny looked to have it covered, had it found goal. Second later, Lewandowski orchestrates and attack down the right, producing a shot for Blasczcykowski in the right of the area. Kuba blasts it out for a goal kick.

1205: Poland 0-0 Greece – The first major opportunity of the tournament is generated down Greece’s left. Piszczek gets deep down the line and crosses of Lewandowski, whose shot from 13 yards is blocked back to Murawski, whose shot is deflected out for a corner. Poland generates a shot off a corner, conceded a goal kick, but one minute later Piszczek and Blaszczykowski are going back at Greece’s left.

1201: Poland 0-0 Greece – Greece kicks off to start Euro 2012.

1155: As sanguine as I can sometimes be about international soccer, atmospheres like we’re seeing in Warsaw remind me there’s little in sport that can match a major tournament’s spectacle. By spectacle, I’m not talking about the opening ceremonies, the anthems – the pomp of organizers feeling there needs to be more than game. I’m talking about that hum – the manifestation of tens of thousands of people’s anticipation.

1148: If it matters, I’ve got Poland and Russia winning today. Logic: They’re better than their opposition. I know that’s controversial.

1125: Starting lineups are out for today’s opening match:

Poland (4-2-3-1): Szczesny, Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek, Polanski, Rybus, Obraniak, Murawski, Blaszczyhowski, Lewandowski

Greece (4-3-3): Calkias, Maniatis, A. Papadopoulos, Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, Holebas, Karagounis, Ninis, Katsouranis, Samaras, Gekas

For Poland, watch their Dortmund trio – Piszczek, Blaszczyhowski, Lewandowski – who could tear up Greece’s left side. The big beneficiary may be Ludovic Obraniak in attacking midfield. The former Lille man closed the season strong after moving to Bordeaux in January, and with the help of the BVB contingent could have a strong tournament.

Wenger: I’ll decide my future in September

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Arsene Wenger, former manager of Arsenal for more than 20 years, is famous for many things. One is either his indicative nature, or ability to show prudence when making decisions, depending on how you see it.

Wenger has been without a job for the first time in more than two decades, and he’s been taking his time deciding on what his future will be. There no doubt have been plenty of offers for him, whether to be a club coach, national team coach or a media pundit on any number of television networks across the globe.

[READ: Salah named to UEFA POY shortlist]

“I decided not to decide,” Wenger said in an interview with Corse Matin while on vacation in Corsica  “I was intoxicated (with soccer) so long that I made a promise to make no decision until September.”

In a follow-up question about whether he would go into another field, such as politics, Wenger rejected that, so it appears he still sees his future in soccer. But in the meantime, he’s been busy playing sports and relaxing by the ocean.

“Yes, (it’s been) very good,” Wenger said of his time off, “even better than I thought. When you have been as busy as I have been, you always fear a little emptiness.

“But I quickly organized myself in this new stage of my life, I do a lot of sport, here I eat with my friends, copiously, I talk a lot too, I can stay for hours watching the horizon, I read all day, at the moment a book by Philip Roth, I Married a Communist.”

In the question and answer, Wenger also backed former Arsenal star Thierry Henry to take over at Bordeaux, as has been rumored, though he warned he wasn’t sure if Henry was truly ready to sacrifice everything to be a manager.

“Yes, he wants to do it, he is intelligent and he has the qualities,” Wenger said. “The existential question that we always ask ourselves is whether we are ready to sacrifice our life for the coaching profession.”

Salah, Ronaldo and Modric on UEFA Player of Year shortlist

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Mohamed Salah‘s magical season for Liverpool could help him usurp what had been a hegemony at the top of UEFA’s yearly awards.

[READ: Morata admits to struggles in Conte’s system]

Salah, along with former teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric were all nominated for UEFA’s Player of the Year award. Salah led Liverpool to an improbable run to the Champions League final, scoring 10 goals and dishing out five assists in 13 Champions League matches.

Ronaldo of course won his third-straight Champions League title last season and fifth overall while leading all goalscorers in the competition for the sixth-straight season. And Modric, starring for Real Madrid along with Ronaldo before the latter left for Juventus, won his third-straight title and led Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.

Here’s the rest of the top 10. The Men’s Player of the Year, along with Women’s Player of the Year and Champions League Best XI will be announced on August 30. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have combined to win the last four awards.

4. Antoine Griezmann (Atlético & France) – 72 points
5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina) – 55 points
6. Kylian Mbappé (Paris & France) – 43 points
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium) – 28 points
8. Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid & France) – 23 points
9. Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium) – 15 points
10. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain) – 12 points

Morata admits difficult adapting to Conte’s system last season

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Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.

If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.

Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.

[READ: Bale powers Real Madrid to win]

“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.

“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”

Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.

With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.

Tottenham to host first Champions League fixture at Wembley

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What seemed like a given was finally made official on Monday. Tottenham will host its first UEFA Champions League match at Wembley Stadium.

[READ: D.C. United wins fourth in a row]

The club announced that its first Champions League match, set to be held on either September 18/19 or October 2/3, will be held at England’s national stadium, as safety concerns have kept the new White Hart Lane from opening on time. The draw for the Champions League group stage will be held on August 30, following the conclusion of the Playoff Round, which is set to get underway this week.

Tottenham has already moved upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Cardiff City to Wembley Stadium, but the venue for Tottenham’s highly-anticipated home match against Manchester City on October 28 has yet to be determined.

Due to the stadium delays, Tottenham can also apply to the FA to play their League Cup match in September on the road, regardless of the draw.