Saturday, June 23
By Nick Ames in Warsaw
Warsaw will be a very different sight in five days’ time. It’s a calm, quiet morning in the district I’ve been staying in, not too far from the National Stadium - with the sun out properly for the first time since I arrived here 48 hours ago. On Thursday, though, you can bet that thousands of Germans will have made the relatively short trip to their neighbouring country for the second of Euro 2012’s semi-finals.
Their latest stage in the journey was completed without the help of either Lukas Podolski or Per Mertesacker. The latter’s situation has been covered in detail before, but Lukas’s omission, although surprising, was not to be seen as a slight on his performances.
Joachim Low explained after the game that he had selected a fresh front three as a reaction to the specific problem posed by a Greece side schooled in the art of denying opponents space to work in. His boldness paid off, Andre Schurrle doing well in Lukas’s left-sided position while Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus, the other two replacements, both found the net.
Regardless, it’s distinctly possible that Lukas will find himself back in the starting line-up when the last-four pressure is on. We have to wait another day or so to find out who he’ll be up against - England v Italy is tomorrow, and I’m about to make the return journey by train to Kiev in order to be in situ for that one.
It means I’ll sadly miss France v Spain, and a wonderful chance for Laurent Koscielny to show his worth at the highest level possible. His agility and recovery skills should be useful against the fluidity of Vicente Del Bosque’s side, with his ability to cover for team-mates being something that Philippe Mexes, who he replaces, does not really possess. Here’s hoping for a big performance, and result, from a player who genuinely deserves the recognition.
Working in Warsaw for the last two days, it’s really hit home that this tournament is being held in different countries, with huge distances between the venues. The vast media centre at the National Stadium was packed before Thursday’s game between the Czech Republic and Portugal, far busier than any comparable area in Ukraine, even though the match itself did not hold the promise of many that had gone before it.
Thinking back to the match between England and France in Donetsk, when I had a set of three press box seats all to myself, you realise that the scope and location of this tournament has caused big logistical difficulties to even the most practiced media organisations. It would be an exaggeration to say that Ukraine has been limited to the intrepid few, but there’s a noticeable difference in the journalistic presence there.
That might have changed by the time I reach Kiev tomorrow. England v Italy is surely a clash to make even the most doubtful go the extra mile.
EURO 2012 BLOG ARCHIVE:
- Off with their beards
- Czeching in to Warsaw
- And then there were six
- D-day for England and France
- Per proved right on Podolski
- Czechs keep their composure
- Electric Walcott makes his mark
- Kiev gets ready for England
- Dejected Dutch on the brink
- A decisive day for the Dutch
- Beaming Ox makes his mark
- Sun, streams and slagheaps
- Diligent Danes reap reward
- The Dutch and the Danes
- Running the rule over Robin
- From Gatwick to Kharkiv