WARSAW — Greece fought back to draw 1-1 with co-hosts Poland in the opening match of Euro 2012 last night but also missed a penalty as both teams ended an action-packed Group A clash with 10 men.
Robert Lewandowski headed Poland into the lead after 17 minutes as they dominated the first half with some positive attacking football and they looked set fair when Greece had Sokratis Papastathopoulos sent off for a second booking in the last minute of the first half following an innocuous challenge.
Greece, surprise European champions in 2004, played with much more vigour in the second half and equalised in the 51st minute through substitute Dimitris Salpingidis.
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was then sent off for tripping Salpingidis 20 minutes from time, only for replacement keeper Przemyslaw Tyton to save Giorgos Karagounis’s resulting penalty.
Russia played the Czech Republic in Wroclaw later last night in the other Group A game as Euro 2012 got into gear.
The month-long festival of football started with a 20-minute opening ceremony before a capacity 50 000 crowd at Warsaw’s National Stadium, combining music and dance celebrating the two eastern European countries’ rich heritage.
Holders and world champions Spain are favourites to retain the title they won four years ago in Austria and Switzerland, but they will face a strong challenge from the team they defeated then, Germany.
Organisers will be breathing a sigh of relief that the football has finally started, after a turbulent five years since the two countries were surprisingly handed the tournament over Italy and a joint bid from Croatia and Hungary.
Since then, concerns have mounted about delays in vital infrastructure projects and high accommodation costs but most recently fears over racist violence.