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

rainy Wroclaw.

Greece recaptured the spirit and style of its surprise Euro 2004

title triumph to upset Russia, which led the group before

kickoff.

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

injury.

Still, Rosicky’s teammates got stronger as the game progressed

and Jiracek scored with a right-foot shot after twisting past a

defender.

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

last minute.”

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

dive.

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

national team.”

Croatia returns to action on Monday against Group C leader Spain

in Gdansk.

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.