Monday 11 December 2017

Home fans' expectations will inspire us, insists skipper

(Live, RTE2/BBC1, 5.0)

Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski and his team-mates will realise a dream when the co-hosts kick off Euro 2012 against Greece in Warsaw today.

However, Franciszek Smuda's side will have to handle the expectations of their home fans in the Group A opener in the National Stadium.

With the co-hosts drawn in the easiest group, hopes are high of a place in the knockout stages, despite being the lowest ranked side in the competition.

But Borussia Dortmund winger Blaszczykowski insists that the pressure would help the team.

"The whole country has great expectations and we are aware of it, but it will only motivate us to win," said the 26-year-old.

"These are things players wait their whole career for -- to play in a tournament like this, in such a great stadium. This is a dream come true, the only thing we can do is realise those dreams and make them last."

Smuda, who has doubts over the fitness of defender Damien Perquis, who is recovering from an elbow fracture, is sure his side are ready, and laughed off a question about whether he would have to check if his players were in bed early.

"I know I can rely on them," he said. "They have convinced me in every way during the last two and a half years.

"Journalists say they have nothing to write about because there are no scandals or problems. I think we are a very professional national team."

Greece opened their 2004 triumph with victory over hosts Portugal and they will once again be looking to spoil the party.

They have lost just one of 21 games under Fernando Santos and were unbeaten during their qualifying campaign.

Santos has injury concerns over defender Vassilis Torosidis, who has a knee problem and Sotiris Ninis, who is set to overcome a shoulder issue to feature.

Captain Giorgos Karagounis says it is vital that Greece come out of their opener with at least a point, stressing: "If you cannot win then you must not lose."

Irish Independent

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