|Referee Carballo - Poland vs Greece|
So after months of speculation and build-up, we’re finally here to answer the question on everyone’s lips – will there be one goal in the opening match of Euro 2012 or none at all? In all seriousness though, let’s look at man in the middle for this contest Carlos Velasco Carballo and what effect he could have.
The last time Greece played in an opening match of the Euros, they took on – and beat – hosts Portugal before spoiling the Iberian nation’s party even more by going on to win the entire thing.
This time the situation is very different – Poland are more fluidity than flair and Greece (despite still relying on a few 2004 stalwarts) a changed side. And now even if the opposition aren’t, the Greek coach is Portugese in the form of Fernando Santos.
Nonetheless, expect a tight game with chances at a premium, the sort of game the Greeks made their own eight years ago.
However referee Carballo is likely to need a well inked pen as Greece ended the qualifiers with the worst disciplinary record with 27 yellow cards and 1 red. Don’t expect Santos’s side to shirk on the cynical tackles and physical play just because the world is watching.
This is as bigger match for Carballo as it is for the players, having never overseen a major international tournament game before. His highest profile match before now was last season’s Europa league final between Porto and Braga.
The 41-year-old is a former industrial engineer who left his job to ref full-time and originates from Madrid. This means despite major plaudits in Spain, he’s not allowed to take charge of El Classico.
“Home team” Poland will hope Carballo is a lucky charm – he was the man in black for co-hosts Ukraine’s acclaimed 3-3 draw with Germany. The Polish set-up is a slick if not spectacular passing game and will probably look Carballo for protection and to keep things calm as the players will be undoubtedly nervous on such an occasion.
Don’t expect any spot-kicks to be awarded, Carballo only gave 6 penalties in 29 La Liga games last season. So the Poles can rest easy from four years ago when official Howard Webb pointed to the spot in a dubious incident against the then hosts Austria which left the 2012 hosts furious.
Carballo is not tolerant of “simulation” – not that either of these sides is particularly known for that – but will look to the new behind-the-goal assistants (a first at a major international tournament) to help him with tricky incidents in the 12-yard-box.