But before a ball had already been kicked, the issue that UEFA wished but fails to go away i.e. racism reared its head once more with some "isolated incidents of racist chanting" at an open Dutch training session in Krakow. Fortunately, for Platini's boys, the Dutch have so far failed to lodge a complaint but how long do we have to wait until the next one?
Mercifully, the opening ceremony lasted only twelve minutes; the main highlights being a rather hairy DJ Karmatronic bashing out some typically Eastern European techno and pianist Adam Gyorgy failing Diana Ross style with some keepie-ups. He should have stuck with Chopin.
When the action finally got under way, it was everything that we told not to expect. Predictably the pundits came up with the misused cliche of opening games being cagey affairs. It was pretty much the opposite of that. Poland went for an attack! attack! attack! approach and when the Greeks finally buckled thanks to some comedy defending and goalkeepin. But then it all got a bit weird. The all-action Polish goalscorer, Robert Lewandowski along with his team mates put their feet up and slowly but surely the Greeks crept back into the game. But then Sokratis Papastathopoulos was dismissed, for two none yellow cards, the referee also ignoring a blatant handball in the Polish area. It seemed as though Spanish whistle-blower, Carlos Velasco Carballo was a 'homer'. We had underestimated him. The Greeks came out fighting and thanks to some 'superman' antics by Sir Chesney in the Polish goal, they found their equaliser through Dimitris Salpigidis. The Arsenal man then compounded his error by hauling down the goalscorer to earn Greece a penalty and himself a red card. Salpigidis' celebrations were somewhat premature as the captain Giorgos Karagounis took responsibility and promptly saw his spot-kick saved by substitute keeper, Przemyslaw Tyton. A great game for football fans and scrabble aficionados alike.
The day's second game pitted a declining Czech side against an upwardly mobile Russian team. Petr Cech, so fantastically protected during Chelsea's Champions League triumph, was offered no such protection as the Russians threatened to run up a cricket score. Fortunately for him, Russia boasted a lumbering forward in the form of Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who seemed to have donned boots in the shape of toblerones. Even Andy Carroll must have been laughing at him. By the time he starting picking out people in the crowd Russia were leading 2-1 and not wishing to to let the Czechs back into a game they seemed so far out of, the unfortunate Kerzhakov got the hook and his replacement, the former Tottenham man Roman Pavlyuchenko, scored the last goal in an impressive 4-1 victory. With two goal Alan Dzagoev and old favorite Andrey Arshavin pulling the strings, Russia are now considered by some as 'dark horses'. Although they may have to consider ditching Kerzhakov who made Greece's Georgios Samaras look like something of a world beater.