Euro 2012: Poland keen to repay their supporters’ faith in opening game against Greece

June 7th, 201211:13 pm @


The vibrancy of a major tournament is nourished by the host’s patriotic
performances and if Poland and Ukraine excel, the flags will wave and car
horns shriek for a month.

“The atmosphere is improving every day,” said Poland manager Franciszek Smuda.
“We see the support on the streets, the people waving at us as we go past.
We hope this remains until the very end so we can be proud as Poles we’ve
created beautiful stadiums and a good atmosphere. We have created a national
team with great respect for its duties. There are no scandals in this team.
We are very professional.”

Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski is one of several Bundesliga stars whose
influence somewhat comically led the Uefa interpreter at last night’s
opening press conference to announce Poland are considered ‘black horses’
(presumably they meant ‘dark’) for the tournament.

“Such supportive words are appreciated but we are at the moment where we must
prove our value,” said Blaszcyykowski.

“Until then there is optimism but we must justify it. These are the most
important matches in our lives and we are ready. Entering the stadium to
train I felt the excitement. We will be fully motivated and try to fulfil
our dreams.

“Sometimes it’s a great burden when the whole country has such great
expectation. We are aware of it but this will motivate us. A player waits
for an entire career to play in a tournament in front of their own fans. Now
we hope to realise our dream and make them last.”

Arsenal’s Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has set the grand target of
winning the competition, despite the lowest ranking (62) in the competition.

“I’m only in it to win it. I don’t plan to lose any games, so therefore I want
to win the championship. Why not?” he said.

“The fans are behind us and they expect us to do well. There is a lot of
pressure but we are growing in confidence. So there is big excitement as
well as big pressure. And that’s good for me because I enjoy it.

“We are playing a Euros in our own country and we should enjoy it. Playing for
your national team is the best feeling in the world. And playing at Euros at
home doesn’t get any better.”

For Poland to succeed, they will need their 23-year-old striker Robert
Lewandowski to challenge for the golden boot.

Lewandowski’s 22 goals secured a successive Bundesliga title for Borussia
Dortmund. Plenty believe it was him, not Dortmund team-mate Shinji Kagawa,
whose signature Manchester United should have pursued most vigorously.

His finishing prowess will be needed against the traditionally defensive

“They are perfect in defence,” said Smuda.

Greece’s Portuguese manager Fernando Santos was not overly impressed by the

“If we were only good at defence we would not be here,” he responded.

But the Greeks know how to wreck a party. Eight years ago Otto Rehhegal’s side
beat hosts Portugal 2-1 in the opening game and also defeated them, 1-0, in
the final.

“It’s a difficult game, as it was the case eight years ago, so we hope it will
end the same way,” said captain Giorgos Karagounis.

If they repeat the trick on the opening night, Poland’s mood may turn as spiky
as the design of their national stadium.

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