No Passes, No Lewa! Skriniar Earns Slovakia Surprise Win Over Poland

Central European neighbors Poland and Slovakia found themselves in a dispute over three points in their opening game at Euro 2020 on a clear day in Saint Petersburg. It was the Slovak side to have the upper hand, claiming all three points on offer by a 2-1 score.

Poland, a team featuring arguably Europe’s finest striker in the person of Robert Lewandowski, looked like a team out of time. Regardless of starring terrific players throughout the past decade or so, results have been underwhelming for the Poles. This game was no exception.

Slovakia, on the other hand, had nothing to lose and it showed. Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the Marek Hamsik-captained side employed an aggressive style of play. Hard tackles and shirt pulling were part of the course. Trivial tricks as these may be, they proved effective in distracting their opponents.

Poland may have started as clear favorites. However, coach Paulo Sousa’s side struggled to control the midfield area from the start of the encounter. Ondrej Duda and Juraj Kucka displayed the kind of tenacity one might expect in a decisive fixture.

Fortune favored the bold when in the 18th minute Slovakia was gifted after experienced keeper Wojciech Szczesny nudged the ball into the back of his own net after ricocheting off the bar.

Whatever the half-time talk included, the message was not lost on the Polish team. The White-and-Reds began the second half in fighting spirits and were repaid in the 46th minute when Torino’s Karol Linetty equalized with a goal from inside the yard box.

Grzegorz Krychowiak helped Poland dominate possession, but not for long. Poland’s number ten failed to control his nerves. In the 62nd minute, the pivot lounged into a late challenge and earned himself a second bookable offense and a long walk back to the dressing room.

With confidence riding high and a crack too large to mend, Slovakia found the winner as Inter’s Milan Skriniar scored in the 68th minute. The defender’s excellent stop and shot from inside the penalty area left Szczesny with no chance of a block.

From then onward, it was a case of Poland pinning their opponents around their own yard box. However, without a spark of imagination to help launch the ball towards Lewandowski the result remained unchanged.

Slovakia thus won their opening game. It’s perhaps the first major surprise of Euro 2020, and judging by the manner in which both teams played this game, it may be far from the only shock we’ll observe in the following days.



June 13, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group E

SCORERS: 18′ Szczesny (P, o.g.), 46′ Linetty (P), 69′ Skriniar (S)

POLAND (4-3-3): Szczesny; Bereszynski, Bednarek, Glik, Rybus (74′ Puchacz); Linetty (74′ Frankowski), Krychowiak, Klich (85′ Moder); Zielinski (85′ Swiderski), Lewandowski, Jozwiak (Skorupski, Fabianski, Davidowicz, Kedziora, Kozlowski, Placheta, Swierczok, Helik) Coach: Paulo Sousa
SLOVAKIA (4-2-3-1): Dubravka; Pekarik (78′ Koscelnik), Satka, Skriniar, Hubocan; Kucka, Hromada (78′ Hrosovsky); Haraslin (86′ Duris), Hamsik, Mak (86′ Suslov); Duda (91’ Gregus) (Vavro, Weiss, Benes, Kuciak, Hancko, Lobotka, Rodak) Coach: Tarkovic

REFEREE: Hategan (Romania)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Hubocan (S); Red Card: Krychowiak (P); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′