Euro 2012: Poland vs Greece and the 5 Players to Watch for

Michael DoyleContributor IIIJune 8, 2012

Euro 2012: Poland vs Greece and the 5 Players to Watch for

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    Later today, the wait will be over as Euro 2012 begins with hosts Poland taking on 2004 winners Greece. 

    All of the pre-tournament talk, ranging from concerns about the hosts to the typical 'How will England do' conversation, is dying down; we can now all look forward to some football. 

    I know its not exactly the most anticipated opening fixture possible considering the reputation of the teams taking the field over the next month or so. 

    But, we do have some big players to look out for; however, it is always interesting to watch the host team in a tournament such as this one. Will they fail like Austria and Switzerland in 2008, or will they make progress into the later rounds? 

    Get set for some hard-to-pronounce names in this slideshow—believe me they were tricky to spell as well. 

Wojciech Szczesny, Poland

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    The Arsenal player has excelled in the last two years, establishing himself as one of the top Premier League keepers despite still only being 22 years old. 

    After Manuel Almunia and fellow Pole Lukasz Fabianski failed to establish themselves as Arsenal's first choice keeper, Arsene Wenger gave the chance to the then-20-year-old Szczesny, who hasn't looked like being dropped since. 

    The same can be said for his international career, where a string of impressive performances in Poland's friendlies have earned praise from manager Fran Smuda. 

    Should Poland advance into the knockout stages, you get the feeling that Szczesny will have to be at his best, including today. 

Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Greece

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    With one of the hardest names to pronounce of the slideshow, and indeed the tournament, we have defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who plays for Genoa but has spent the last season on loan at German side Werder Bremen

    Whenever you watch a Greek side in a major tournament, much of their success depends on their defensive qualities, especially now considering the lack of real quality going forward.

    This is where Papastathopoulos comes into play, as the 23-year-old, who impressed during his first spell at Genoa, earned a move to AC Milan before moving back to Genoa. 

    On the international front, he has formed a good partnership with Avraam Papadopoulos in helping his side qualify for these championships. 

    Considering that the two have to face top striker Robert Lewandowski today, they will both need to be on top form from the start if Greece are to make progress in the competition. 

Jakub Blaszczykowski, Poland (c)

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    The Polish captain is coming off a great season at club side Borussia Dortmund, having helped his side complete the German domestic double. 

    He plays as a right midfielder but can also push forward and act as a winger, stretching defenses and is likely to cause problems today for the Greeks. 

    He hopes to take his form to the Euros, and is one of three Dortmund players likely to start for his country tonight. 

    One of them is Lukasz Piszczek, the right-back, who will look to link up with Blaszczykowski on the right hand side and create chances. 

    Should Poland progress, you should expect Blaszczykowski to excel. 

Giorgios Karagounis, Greece (c)

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    Another team captain here, as Greek midfielder Giorgios Karagounis looks to help his side through to the knockout stages. 

    He plays his football at Panathinkaikos, and is one of the most experienced players in the team having been part of the side which won Euro 2004. 

    Known for his set-pieces, he will also look to link up the midfield with the team's forward players. 

    In a team with many youngsters, Karagounis' experience will be pivotal, especially today in a game where the best part of 50,000 fans will be backing the Polish side. 

    At 35 years of age, this is probably his last chance to shine at a major tournament, so expect him to play with a lot to prove. 

Robert Lewandowski, Poland

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    Last but certainly not least is striker Robert Lewandowski. 

    When a striker is heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, you know he is talented. 

    Like Blaszczykowski, Lewandowski is coming off a strong year at German champions Borussia Dortmund, having scored 30 goals in all competitions for them. 

    He is likely to play alone up front, and fits the mold as Poland's No. 9 being physical, intelligent and having an eye for goal. 

    It is imperative for Poland's chances that Lewandowski takes his domestic form into this tournament, and will be his side's main goal threat against the Greeks this evening.