Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Russia win as co-hosts Poland are held

By Stuart Roach, CNN
updated 5:19 PM EDT, Sat June 9, 2012
Alan Dzagoev scored twice for Russia in an impressive win over Czech Republic.
Alan Dzagoev scored twice for Russia in an impressive win over Czech Republic.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two players sent off as co-hosts Poland draw 1-1 with 2004 champions Greece
  • Poland's substitute keeper Przemyslaw Tyton saves Giorgos Karagounis' penalty
  • Russia cruise to 4-1 win over Czech Republic in Wroclaw
  • Alan Dzagoev scores twice for Dick Advocaat's side

(CNN) -- Russia emerged as genuine contenders for football's European crown with a thumping 4-1 win over Czech Republic after co-hosts Poland and 2004 champions Greece had opened the tournament with a dramatic 1-1 draw in Warsaw.

Alan Dzagoev scored twice as Dick Advocaat's Russia side made a confident start, Roman Shirokov and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko completing the rout after Jaroslav Plasil had briefly threatened a Czech comeback.

Russia, who reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008 under Guus Hiddink, next face co-hosts Poland, who saw Robert Lewandowski's first-half header cancelled out by Greece substitute Dimitris Salpingidis' second-half goal in Warsaw.

Could this be Holland's year?
Ruud Gullit: Euros will confront racism
Euro racists face criminal sanctions
Former Polish striker condemns racism

But the goalscorers barely told the tale of a remarkable opening match.

Both sides had a player sent off - Sokratis Papastathopoulos for Greece and Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny -- before the Arsenal goalkeeper's replacement Przemyslaw Tyton emerged as the hero by saving a penalty from Giorgos Karagounis.

Poland 1-1 Greece

Two goals, two red cards and a missed penalty in the tournament's opening game meant that the focus of Euro 2012 shifted firmly to football.

Fears of racism had dominated the build-up to the tournament and there was an inevitable feeling of relief when the opening game finally got under way in Warsaw.

A brief but beautiful opening ceremony - just 12 minutes long - set the scene for the three-week tournament before the home crowd came close to lifting the closed roof off the National Stadium with a rousing rendition of the national anthem.

It was a vocal chorused outside the stadium by 100,000 supporters crammed into a specially-built fan zone in the center of Warsaw -- and those almost exclusively Poland fans had plenty to shout about in the opening 20 minutes of the opening game.

Co-hosts Poland looked to be cruising to their first-ever European Championship finals victory when Borussia Dortmund striker Lewandowski headed home Jakub Blaszczykowski's cross, with Greece keeper Kostas Chalkias stuck in no-man's land.

It was a special moment for Lewandowski, who was born in Warsaw and proved a constant menace to the hapless Greek defence in a one-sided first half.

Euro 2012: The best photos from day one

And when Greece lost both their starting centre backs - Avraam Papadopoulos limping off injured before Papastathopoulos was sent off for two bookings in nine first-half minutes -- it seemed a matter of how many for Lewandowski and Poland.

Somehow, Greece manager Fernando Santos instigated a response to silence the Polish fans in and out of the stadium, with substitute Salpigidis the central character.

Just six minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute, Salpigidis poked an equaliser past stranded goalkeeper Szczesny.

Przemyslaw Tyton came on for the red-carded Wojciech Szczesny and immediately saved a penalty
Przemyslaw Tyton came on for the red-carded Wojciech Szczesny and immediately saved a penalty

Suddenly it was the Greek fans - so burdened by national crisis, so weighed down by Eurozone millstones - with something to celebrate.

It got worse for Arsenal keeper Szczesny when he saw red for a clumsy trip on substitute Salpigidis, but his replacement Tyton guessed right to push away Greece captain Karagounis' penalty.

The Warsaw party was back on -- and two of the tournament underdogs had set a high standard of entertainment for the rest to follow.

Russia 4-1 Czech Republic

Over in Wroclaw, Russia and Czech Republic continued to defy Group A's pre-tournament image as the "least exciting" section, with Advocaat's side capitalising on some weak Czech defending.

These two sides had been installed as favourites to qualify from the group, but only the Russians lived up to that hype in a game dominated by Advocaat's side.

Former Arsenal forward Arshavin was the architecht of their dominance, playing a crucial part in the opening goal from Dzagoev and then playing a defence-splitting pass to set up Shirokov for the second.

Pilar's superbly taken goal early in the second half gave the Czechs hope and they had chances to level before substitute Pavlyuchenko set up Dzagoev for his second and then himself wrapped up victory with a thumping finish.

Pavlyuchenko had been ledft out of Russia's starting line-up, yet still played a crucial role in helping finish off the Czechs when he replaced the tiring Aleksandr Kerzhakov 17 minutes from time.

It was a cameo role not lost on two-goal hero Dzagoev, who told Uefa's official website: "It was hard for us at 2-1 but a big performance from Roman helped us and we want to thank him for this.

"It is very important that we performed well in the first game -- it is one of the six steps to the final."

Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek admitted his side had struggled to cope with the Russians' forward movement and link-up play. He conceded: "We had problems with the combinations of the Russians. They had a lot of chances and we could not get the ball off them.

Bilek added: "They have great technique and showed us today what a great team they are."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Sunday's Euro 2012 final in Kiev pits holders Spain against Italy, between them the winners of the last two World Cups.
updated 10:26 AM EDT, Thu August 22, 2013
Euro 2012: Images from 13th European Championships being held in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Can English football reinvent its "warrior" style to emulate the success of freeflowing football nations such as Spain and Germany?
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Germany Greece
The Germany-Greece quarterfinal at Euro 2012 is just one example of when political and sporting lines become blurred.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012
CNN's panel of football experts look at the Euro 2012 contenders ahead of the quarterfinal stage.
With Euro 2012's group stage now over, CNN's Pedro Pinto picks out his highlights of the action in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
Nicklas Bendtner could be in trouble for his choice of underwear.
UEFA's decision to fine Nicklas Bendtner for revealing a sponsor's name on his underpants during Euro 2012 may have opened a can of worms.
CNN's Alex Thomas wonders how such an exciting football team as Spain could become, as heretical as it may seem to say... boring.
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Thu June 14, 2012
Fighting in the streets of Warsaw during the opening week of Euro 2012 is a stark reminder that football's "disease" has not been cured.
CNN's Amanda Davies argues that footballers are picked for their sporting ability, not because they can do justice to their national song.
updated 9:46 AM EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
Poland kicked off Euro 2012 as one of the underdogs. It is a far cry from the days when the nation was one of the most feared teams in world soccer.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Euro 2012: Guess the tattoos
Euro 2012 is almost upon us and Europe's finest footballers will be marked men -- in more ways than one.
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
CNN World Sport looks at the challenges that teams and host countries Poland and Ukraine faced to get to the Euro 2012 cup.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
As national teams arrive in Poland and Ukraine, will the tournament be a football success or overshadowed by racism?
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
A picture taken at Donetsk airport on June 6, 2012, shows flags reading Euro 2012 logo two days ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships opening in Warsaw. France will play its first match on June 11 against England.
If the pre-vote predictions had been accurate, football heavyweights Italy would be preparing to host the 2012 European Championship.
CNN's Pedro Pinto predicts who will fly and who will flop at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Have your say here.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
Portugal have never won a major tournament at senior level, could this be the year the Euro 2012 underdogs shine?
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Some of Europe's best footballers will be missing in Poland and Ukraine this month, as the effects of another grueling season takes its toll.
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Tue June 5, 2012
Can defending European champions Spain retain their title in Poland and Ukraine? CNN's Pedro Pinto reports.
updated 3:02 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Euro 2012 is nearly here and the 16 competing nations have announced the final 23-man squads.
updated 4:57 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Check out who is playing who, and where, as 16 teams compete at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 3:20 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
The spotlight is on Ukrainian and Polish fans after a BBC investigation alleged racism was prevalent in the stands
Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine and Poland have told CNN a documentary accusing fans from both nations of racism was "unbalanced and biased."
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Fri May 18, 2012
UEFA president Michel Platini tells CNN he thinks Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the final of Euro 2012 in Ukraine -- if Germany reach it.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Tue May 8, 2012
It was supposed to be a symbol of Ukraine's development, but next month's Euro 2012 tournament has become mired in controversy.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
Poland and Ukraine will host the European Championships for the first time in 2012, welcoming 14 other teams and football fans from across the continent.
updated 11:52 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
The build-up to next year's finals has truly begun, so here is CNN's guide to our top 10 most memorable European Championship moments.
updated 11:55 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
With less than 200 days to go until Euro 2012 football fans across Europe can start to look forward to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
ADVERTISEMENT