A game of two halves – it’s the oldest cliché in the soccer book.
It certainly rang true in Warsaw Friday as Poland saw its first-half dominance recede into second-half surrender.
But for the hosts, the 1-1 opening-game draw with Greece could more aptly by characterized as a game of two stars.
It took just 17 minutes for Robert Lewandowski to answer the prayers of the whole of Poland when he headed in Jakub Blaszczykowki’s pinpoint cross to reward his side’s positive play, settling the nerves of the 58,145 in attendance and giving notice that the Borussia Dortmund front man could well be poised to become one of the faces of the tournament.
Certainly his credentials indicate the sky could be the limit as far as his talents are concerned. After scoring 29 goals to lead Dortmund to a league and cup double in Germany this past campaign, the 23-year-old is being counted on to lead the charge in his country’s second ever appearance at a European championship finals.
His coach with the national team, Franciszek Smuda, is already convinced that his star player is primed for the big time, telling the English tabloids this week that Lewandowski will be joining none other than English powerhouse Manchester United after the conclusion of Euro 2012.
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but he hardly hurt his chances in the opening game. He took his goal well, capitalizing on terrible positioning by Greek goalie Kostas Chalkias, and caused the Greek defence fits at times in the first half as a constant, and energetic, thorn in their side.
But while he could do a lot of things well, he could only watch, aghast, along with the rest of those in attendance as a pair of goalkeeping howlers served to not only let Greece back in the game, but also nearly gave it the inside edge on all three points.
For those clangers Wojciech Szczesny will have to hold his hand up and take responsibility. He’ll also have to wait to make amends – the red card he received for blatantly tripping Greek forward Dimitrios Salpingidis inside the box will cost him a game on the sidelines and force him to bide his time until the final group game, against the Czech Republic.
Szczesny might also want to take backup Przemyslaw Tyton out for an expensive meal after he spared the Arsenal goalkeeper further blushes by coming off the bench to stop Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis’s resulting penalty.
But then Szczesny has been here before. His weak attempt to come for a cross in the 51st minute looked awfully familiar to Arsenal fans – the 2011 Carling Cup final sprung to mind – as did the result, a gift-wrapped goal for the opposition.
As Gunners coach Arsene Wenger is only too happy to remind people, at 22, he’s still young. But the European championship is no time to be learning on the job.