What an opener. In a group where anyone can advance to the knockout stage Greece and Poland showed that anything can happen.
This game was a tale of two halves, the first dominated by the Poles, the second dominated by the Greeks.
With the home crowd urging them on, the Poles got things going quickly and almost scored in the second minute but Kostas Chalkias tipped the ball over the bar. The attack would come from the right hand side where the Polish team had a clear advantage.
After missing a great chance in the 12th minute, Robert Lewandowski headed in the championship's first goal, giving the Polish side an early 1-0 lead. The Poles almost doubled the lead but Damien Perquis shot wide at an empty Greek goal. That would be the last quality chance Poland would have as Greece's defense would shut the door and control the second half.
The Greeks began finding their legs late in the first half and thought they had earned a penalty when Perquis handled the ball, but they were not giving a penalty. The Greeks would become more frustrated with referee Carlos Carballo when he gave a second yellow to Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Both cards were harsh as they were both hard fouls.
After surviving the first half only down 1-0, the Greeks turned to Dimitris Salpigidis. He provided an instant spark, and in the 51st minute tied the game after Wojeich Szczensy couldn't control the cross and Salpagidis quickly jumped to slam it in. Leveling the score a man down seemed to take the wind out of the Poles.
Substitute Kostas Fortounis found a wide open Salpigidis behind the Polish defense only to be taken down by Szczesny earning a penalty shot. Szczensy would be red carded for his take down of Salpigidis.
Enter substitute goalie Przemyslaw Tyton who came on to face the penalty kick. Georgios Karagounis stepped up to take it and was stopped. That save kept the score level and would be the last chance either squad came close to finding a winner.
What a game. All the ups and downs provided the fans a great thrill. Moving forward each team was left with a lot to think about. Here are a few things I came away with after the game yesterday.
With the silly red card suspension of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and injury to Avram Papadopoulos, Greece's two starting center backs are out. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who was the odd man out, will move into the starting lineup. But who lines up next to him?
Stelios Melezas is the only other center back on the roster. Stelios has only a few national team appearances but was a regular on his club team PAOK. Does Fernando Santos turn to him or does he go with Kostas Katsouranis who moved to center-back for the final 50 minutes after Sokratis dismissal?
Katsouranis filled in great and seemed to have great chemistry with Kyriakos Papadopoulos. It will be an interesting choice because if Katsouranis plays center back, who will come on to play in the midfield?
What was Greece's strength is now a question mark. Losing two starters after the first game, one via injury, would hurt any team.
Sotiris Ninis is only 22, and while its early to judge him he hasn't gotten it done on a consistant basis.
Ninis burst onto the scene as a 15 year old with Panathinaikos. After being the youngest player to appear in a Greek Super League game, Ninis started making a name for himself in the 2007 Under 19 European Championships. Sotiris carried Greece to the final and earned himself Player of the Tournament. With such high expectations, Sotiris has yet to deliver on the national team.
Ninis struggled to get playing time under former coach Otto Rehhagel as he would question Ninis dedication to defense. Rehhagel did bring him to South Africa on the World Cup team but he was used as a substitute.
Under Santos, Ninis has been a regular when healthy. Ninis under Santos plays as a forward rather than his customary midfield role. The move was to place Ninis in space, away from the crowded midfield, to show his creativity. So far it hasn't worked. The team hasn't be able to get him in spots to show is talent.
Right now, a move back to the middle of the field, and probably as a reserve, is best for him.
Like most of the Greeks, Georgios Samaras had a poor first half.
Not helping on defense allowed Poland to run up and down the right hand side and led to a goal. Samaras only had a handful of touches and not a sniff of a threat to the Polish goal.
In the second half Samaras kept finding space along the right hand side of the Polish defense, controlling the ball and allowing the Greeks to move forward. Georgios made a great run and was all alone behind the Polish defense then twisted and turned himself from a goal scoring chance to nothing. Had Samaras continued his run he would have been alone against the goalie.
With only 7 goals in 56 caps for Greece, Samaras isn't the answer.
Dimitris has always been a very productive player for his teams. Whether it was PAOK, Panathinaikos or the Greek National team. The former Greek Footballer of the Year for two straight years, Dimitris has always found a way to score an important goal.
Salpigidis has just 7 goals in his 55 caps. That is not impressive, but his goals come at the right time or are historic. Dimitri scored the goal against Ukraine to qualify Greece for the 2010 World Cup. He also scored Greece's first ever World Cup goal against Nigeria in their 2-1 win.
At 5'8", Dimitris gets lost in the shuffle at times. A relentless defender as well, his game is well rounded. His speed on the wing opens up space in the middle for players like Karagounis and Ninis to operate. Look for him to see plenty of action going forward.
The move by Olympiakos Ernesto Valverde switching Giannis Maniatis to the holding midfield spot has played great benefits for both his club and the national team. Maniatis will be on the field now instead of a a bench player waiting for Vasilis Torosidis to be either injured or suspended.
Maniatis has shown improvement game by game. His defensive presence on the field allows fullbacks Jose Holebas and Torosidis to move forward, overlapping the forwards without having to worry about the defense.
Maniatis is also good at transitioning from defense to offense. His passes are springing the midfielders forward starting the counter attack.
With his continued growth as a midfield player Maniatis should be a regular on the national team.
After watching the struggles of Gekas, Samaras against Poland, Greece is going to need to give Kostas Fortounis, Giannis Fetfatzidis and Kostas Mitroglou more playing time if they are going to make it to the quarterfinals.
Fortounis made an immediate impact in the game against Poland. Finding an open Salpagidis set up Greece's penalty chance. He was excellent in his defensive assignment and was helping create chances for Greece. Greece will need more of that against Czech and Russia to advance.
Fetfazidis and Mitroglou should see time with the struggles of Gekas and Ninis. Mitroglou is a physical striker who can't be muscled off the ball. Fetfazidis will need to provide instant offense when he is inserted into the game.
Its time to let the old guard go and usher in the new players. Greece will benefit from the increased energy for sure. Qualifying for Brazil is not to far away and these young players will need the playing time.