Poland and Greece not only kick off the Euro 2012 tournament tomorrow, but they're playing for their tournament lives.
Russia is the overwhelming favorite to win Group A, but the second-place spot is entirely up for grabs. Host country Poland, Euro 2004 winners Greece and the Czech Republic have few, if any, advantages over one another. Poland and Greece are considered bigger threats to advance though.
The Poles have a dynamic scorer in Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski and an athletic, young keeper in Arsenal man Wojciech Szczęsny. Lewandowski's Bundesliga teammate, Jakub Błaszczykowski will captain the squad at only 26 years old.
In comparison, the Greeks sport an older squad with 35-year-old captain Giorgos Karagounis leading the way. Their top playmaker, however, is 21-year-old Ioannis Fetfatzidis who the Greek's affectionately call the "Greek Messi."
Greece was absolutely dominant in qualifying, tying for the lowest goals against percentage and going unbeaten. And still they get little respect in this tournament, mostly because they're a defensive-minded team that doesn't look to attack all that often.
That is why this Poland-Greece matchup is so intriguing and important.
Both teams are likely hoping for a draw at best with the Russians, and in order to advance they'll likely have to notch a win somewhere along the way. The Czech Republic are no pushovers, but both teams will be looking for all three points there.
This match could very well be the deciding factor in who advances and who goes home (or in Poland's case stays home).
Who Wins the Opening Match?
The Galanolefki will look to force the Polish attack in some mistakes and hope Fetfa can work some magic from the midfield into the attacking third. As this is only the opening game, the Greeks will most certainly play not to lose, meaning their defensive shell will almost be tighter than usual. In fact, it wouldn't at all be surprising to see the Greeks play to a draw in every match.
The Biało-czerwoni, meanwhile, are young team that will be looking to score goals and excite their home crowds as much as possible, but this could also make them vulnerable on the back end. Their extremely fortunate to have Szczęsny in the net, as he's accustomed to high-pressure situations having starred in North London for the Gunners, but he's not unbeatable.
Tension and excitement will be running high when these two countries kick off Euro 2012, but this match is important for so many more reasons.