Poland, Russia exit Euro 2012; Czechs, Greece in
Co-host Poland and Group A favorite Russia crashed out of the
European Championship on Saturday, as the Czech Republic and Greece
scored 1-0 wins to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Czechs won the group as a second-half goal from Petr Jiracek
beat Poland, which wasted a series of chances early in the game in
Greece recaptured the spirit and style of its surprise Euro 2004
title triumph to upset Russia, which led the group before
Captain Giorgos Karagounis scored against the run of play with
the final kick of the first half, and Greece hung on though an
expected Russian onslaught never came.
The streets of Warsaw were calm before Russia’s return to action
in the city four days after violent clashes with Poland fans.
Earlier, UEFA opened its first disciplinary case for racist
abuse at Euro 2012. It charged the Croatia football association
after anti-racism monitors said fans made monkey noises at Italy
forward Mario Balotelli.
A tense night was promised in Group A with all four teams
knowing a victory would ensure a last-eight berth.
Poland had to win to progress, but became the latest European
Championship co-host which failed to progress from the groups.
Despite a typically aggressive start, Poland did not make its
chances count and Robert Lewandowski sliced his shot wide when
clear on goal in the 10th.
The Czechs struggled without Tomas Rosicky, their captain and
playmaker, who failed to recover from an Achilles tendon
Still, Rosicky’s teammates got stronger as the game progressed
and Jiracek scored with a right-foot shot after twisting past a
Poland poured forward late on searching for an equalizer which
would have eliminated the Czechs.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Jakub Blaszczykowski beat
goalkeeper Petr Cech with a rising shot, but defender Michal Kadlec
ran back to twist and head the ball back out to safety.
”We realized that Russia was losing and we needed to win,”
Jiracek said. ”We were very lucky that Poland didn’t score in the
Russia started play with four points and needed only a draw to
advance. It threatened several times in the first half, though
Greece goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis only had to save from a
close-range effort by Andrei Arshavin. Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Yuri
Zhirkov just missed the goal with shots from distance.
Karagounis, making a Greek record-tying 120th appearance, shot
low under Russia goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev with the last kick
of the half.
Russia occupied Greece’s half for most of the second period, but
was kept at bay by characteristically resolute defending.
Forward Alan Dzagoyev came closest in the 84th, but his glancing
header from Arshavin’s cross drifted just wide.
Minutes later, it finished 1-0 – as it did most times when
Greece played eight years ago.
Karagounis – who had a penalty saved in the opening match
against Poland – will miss the quarterfinal. He thought he won a
penalty when making contact with Sergei Ignashevich, but Swedish
referee Jonas Eriksson instead booked the Greece captain for a
One day after receiving reports from anti-discrimination
monitors working at Croatia’s 1-1 draw with Italy on Thursday in
Poznan, UEFA laid formal charges.
Croatia will answer a case of ”improper conduct” by their
supporters, including ”racist chants, racist symbols,” UEFA said
in a statement.
The Football Against Racism in Europe monitors wrote that
Croatia fans made monkey noises at Balotelli, who is black, and
displayed far-right nationalist flags.
Those responsible were ”not supporters, but hooligans who
should be isolated from all sports events,” the Croatian body said
in a statement, appealing to UEFA ”not to punish the Croatian
Croatia returns to action on Monday against Group C leader Spain
Balotelli injured his right knee in training on Saturday, and is
doubtful for Italy’s game against Ireland in Poznan on Monday.
On Sunday, Group B leader Germany faces Denmark in Lviv,
Ukraine, and Portugal plays the Netherlands in Kharkiv.
Germany, with two wins already, is not guaranteed to qualify,
and the Dutch are still in contention despite losing twice.
The group winner will play Greece in Warsaw, and the runner-up
will face the Czechs in Gdansk.