Euro 2012: How Poland won a tie

Polish midfielder Maciej Rybus (left) fights for the ball with Greek defender Vassilis Torosidis.

It has finally arrived. After five years of planning and much talk about Euro 2012, Poland faces the historic day. Small groups of “Polska Bialo-czerwoni” (Poland White and Reds) fans are chanting in the Warsaw suburb Wawrzyszewo. Next to me two elderly ladies laden with shopping bags are discussing Poland’s chances in today’s game against Greece. “It will be as usual, they will lose to a stupid goal after a free kick and all will be lost. The Greeks are really good with free kicks,” the pessimistic one complains. “But Lewandowski is in great form. He will score! We will win a draw,” says the optimist. “You see, that’s Polish mentality!” the pessimist fumes. “We only want to ‘win a draw’, we have to win the win!”. I am left highly amused by the quality of analysis and tactical knowledge from a pair of 60-something pensioners.
 
On the next stations more and more fan join them on the train so on Centrum Station the underground is packed with people in white-red shirts and scarves. Among them are a few fans in blue shirts with Charisteas’ name on them. They don’t look scared and Polish fans are not aggressive, but ain’t too friendly either. Poles look at them with curiosity, as if they’re aliens. Most of 50,000 fans traveling to the National Stadium and even more from the 100,000 that will gather in fan zones haven’t seen many foreigners in their lives. Until June 8, Poland was not a popular tourist destination among tourists.
 
The crowd is getting much bigger closer to the stadium, many fans tried to get there as early as possible, just to make sure they will not miss the biggest sport event in their lives. Many travel from far away and hide from the burning sun under the bushes of green belts that divides the road.  
 
Outside of the stadium, the landscape change colors and become almost completely white and red. Two years ago it was the vuvuzuela – this year’s must-have footie fan item is the curly, Ruud Gullit-like wig in white and red colors. Two cute young ladies painted their lips – upper white, down red. The media reporters cannot stop starring at them and taking photos.
 
I get chatting with two cowboys with white and red face paint. They made a long way here from Bytom, city in Silesia. “Result? 3-1! For whom? Are you joking!,” Krzysztof Warszawski (40) pretends to be annoyed.
 
I am asking about Poland’s chances. “We can get into the quarterfinals. That’s minimum we are all counting on that,” Warszawski adds.

“So what about the Euros, is that a good thing for Poland, I can hear some people complaining?” I ask, trying to provoke his white and red cowboy friend.
 
“The Euros are really a great thing for Poland,” Romek Sikora (39) answers without hesitation. “You can see new things anywhere. Roads, airports rail stations, stadiums, that’s fantastic. We have been in Austria for Euro 2008 and we in Poland don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
 
Most fans tell me that they are ready for the biggest sporting day in their life, some even say that it’s the biggest event in their life.
 
The stadium was full, and exclusively in red and white with small Blue Greek island on the left corner. The roof was closed due to UEFA order and inside become really stuffy so fans were trying cool with beer.

Fortunatelly fans could enjoy surprisingly short and nice opening ceremony. Based on Poland and Ukraine national colors, music and a bit of Chopin played on very grand piano. The concert pianist soon start to show his football tricks and his place was taken by DJ wearing jacket as golden as chains of visiting Russian fans. Finally all fans raised color cartoons from their sits and form flags of all 16 participating nations.
 
The real roar started after the players enter the pitch. Since the Second World War Poland probably haven’t heard so many people screaming so loud.

The game started with attack of Polish team. The Eagles right side was charging time after time. After few minutes Michael Owen asked on Twitter if Greeks haven’t forgot their left back. In 16 minute he was still somewhere else and 50,000 went mad after Lewandowski coolly finished perfect pass from Piszczek.

The crowd got engaged one more time after controversial second red card for Papastathopoulos.
 
During the half time the game got really exciting. Firstly 10 manned Greeks started to dominate the field. Soon Salpingidis, the men called Greek Messi and who just went on the pitch scored a scrappy goal after mistake of the Polish defense. After that small blue island exploded shouting ‘Hellada, Hellada”.  
 
In 69 minute they become even louder and the rest of the stadium become quiet. Polish keeper Szczesny got sent off for foul in penalty area. Polish fans started to bit their nails. 2 minutes later they roared in ecstasy after reserve keeper Tyton saved the penalty. Tyton in Polish means Tobacco and it turned out that Tobacco happened to be disastrous for Greeks.
 
Not much happened for the rest of the game as players were exhausted playing in heat and one man down. Polish fans thank their players for the effort. “Are you happy or disappointed? I asked one. “Both, ” he answered confused. “We have just won a tie”.

 
The word on the street in Warsaw

What do you think about the game?
 
I am bloody disappointed. Well it is a good result, but we should have killed the game in the first half.  You may say we have drawn a won game. I still think Poland could qualify to play offs. The organization, the fans were perfect.

—Lukasz Walski, 32
 
I counted that we will celebrate after the game. I really hoped for 2-1 for Poland but we cannot complain about the draw. First half was much better, in the second players run out of energy. But we should be happy. I hope Poland will qualify.

—Klaudia Waradejdo, 28
 


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