Monday 18 December 2017

Coach admits Poles were 'paralysed by pressure'

Poland's coach Franciszek Smuda (L) reacts during their Euro 2012 Group A match against Greece. Photo: Reuters
Poland's coach Franciszek Smuda (L) reacts during their Euro 2012 Group A match against Greece. Photo: Reuters
Poland's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny fouls Greece's Dimitris Salpingidis. Photo: Reuters
Referee Carlos Velasco Carballo of Spain shows a red card to Poland's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Photo: Reuters
Greece's Dimitris Salpingidis (C) celebrates scoring the equaliser against Poland. Photo: Reuters

Poland coach Franciszek Smuda admitted some of his players wilted under the pressure as they drew 1-1 in a dramatic Euro 2012 opener against Greece at the National Stadium in Warsaw.

The co-hosts went ahead through Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski in a first half which saw Greece go down to 10 men when defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off after receiving two yellow cards.

But Poland could not cash in on their advantage. Greece rallied in the second half, scoring through substitute Dimitris Salpigidis and then seeing Poland also go down to 10 men when Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was dismissed for bringing down Salpigidis.

In the end the Poles had substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton to thank for their point when he saved the resulting penalty taken by Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis.

Smuda, however, said: "I told the players to cheer up, it would have been much worse if we had lost. It is not the end, the tournament is still open.

"Greece are a very experienced team and it is difficult to score against them. It was difficult when we lost the goalkeeper. The situation changed because of the red card.

"We played too much across and backwards in the second half. The Greeks had nothing to lose. They tried and they scored. We now have a few days and we will analyse the match and decide on the 11 for next time. We could see some of the players were paralysed by the pressure."

Greek coach Fernando Santos insisted Papastathopoulos was harshly dismissed but refused to criticise Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

He said: "When Sokratis (Papastathopoulos) was sent off it wasn't justified but still we succeeded in keeping on the pressure. I totally accept the decision of the referee but it was a difficult situation for us. We were confident and thought we could get in the game again.

"In the end both teams were tired but tried to create chances and we had the best in the second half."

Santos refused to blame Karagounis for missing the penalty, saying: "He has scored in the past, this is football. My players did a great effort in the second half.

"After the first 20 minutes everyone did a great job. If we leave aside the first 20 I am really satisfied with all my players.

"I am always confident. We had a strategy to win with our attack but we didn't succeed in the first 20 minutes. We had to change our strategy when our player was sent off."

Santos also admitted that some of his players were tired after a long season both domestically and in Europe and hinted he will rotate his squad over the next two group games.

He said: "The team had many challenges to face. Players had been in play-offs and had an additional four matches to play. We have three games to play in a short time so we have to handle the players accordingly. Some players will not be fit to play two 90 minutes in a few days."

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