Football: Poland and Portugal fail to shine in stadium debut

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  • Thursday, March 1, 2012
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  • WARSAW, February 29, 2012 (AFP) - Euro 2012 hosts Poland and qualifiers Portugal were unable to deliver a thriller for fans on Wednesday, drawing 0-0 here in what was billed as one of the meatiest friendlies of the Poles' tournament preparation campaign.
    Home supporters expecting a flood of goals at the first ever game in Poland's new National Stadium -- venue on June 8 of the opening match of Euro 2012 -- were sorely disappointed.
    While the Poles' defence looked improved compared with previous outings, they showed up attacking weaknesses.
    "After this match against Portugal, I'm as calm about things as I was before the match," said Poland's much-criticised manager Franciszek Smuda.
    "What can we do better? Score goals of course... Given that, I think the set pieces in our performance today weren't as they should have been," he acknowledged.
    Poland clearly missed injured star striker Robert Lewandowski, who has been riding high with his German club Borussia Dortmund, earning the nickname "Lewangoalski".
    Portugal, who were forced to earn their Euro 2012 berth via the playoffs, also displayed a lack of finesse, failing to build on their dominance of possession and a string of free kicks and corners.
    In a repeat of their English Premier League battles, Portugal's Manchester United striker Nani sparred with Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, firing a shot which the Pole saved easily in the third minute, and following up with two less-convincing efforts.
    Poland, meanwhile, deployed French-born attacking midfielder Ludovic Obraniak up front, but he shot wide in the 13th minute.
    Portugal captain and Real Madrid sharpshooter Cristiano Ronaldo was unable to beat an alert Szczesny in the 38th minute, as he punched the ball clear and then saved the corner with ease.
    There was heartache for Lewandowski's striking understudy Ireneusz Jelen a minute before half time as he powered towards what seemed an open goal before being put off stride as Portugal keeper Rui Patricio plunged into his path.
    In stoppage time, Nani shot wide.
    The second half saw the hosts up the pace, with Obraniak latching onto a cross from Lukasz Piszczek but firing over the bar in the 48th minute, before beating a string of defenders three minutes later only to see Rui Patricio save his shot.
    A flurry of substitutions failed to inject sufficient energy into the game, until Poland brought on Adrian Mierzejewski 10 minutes from time.
    Five minutes later the home crowd held their breath as he crossed to fellow substitute Slawomir Peszko, only to see the latter's strike saved.
    Mierzejewski, of Turkey's Trabzonspor, attacked again a minute later and then, after winning a free kick, beat the Portuguese wall -- but his shot was saved easily by Rui Patricio.
    Like fellow Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine, Poland have an automatic slot at the 16-nation championships and so have had to rely on friendlies to hone their skills -- with patchy results.
    Having flunked their qualifying run for the 2010 World Cup, Poland have not played a competitive match since October 2009.


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