Here are three thoughts on the opening match of Euro 2012, a 1-1 draw between Poland and Greece.
1. Sokratis Papastathopoulos was exceptionally unlucky to be sent off... Achieving balance is never easy for referees: Be too weak and you risk players suffering injury; be too tough and you risk showing cards to players who have done nothing to earn them. The feeling for a while has been that Spanish football has erred on the side of strictness. Large numbers of Spanish league games are ruined by red cards when there was neither malice nor recklessness to deserve them. Spanish referee Carlos Velasco showed 16 red cards in the 19 league matches he refereed last season, so it was somewhat predictable that he sent two players off in the Euro 2012 opener: the second justifiably, but the first, very, very wrongly.
The unfortunate player was Sokratis Papastathopoulos. He picked up his first yellow card in the 35th minute for an aerial challenge in which his arm brushed the face of Robert Lewandowski as the two leapt for a header, the sort of unintentional contact that happens dozens of times per game. His second came 10 minutes later, as Rafal Murawski slipped as he turned, momentum carrying the former into the Greek. Short of dematerializing, it's not clear what Papastathopoulos could have done to avoid contact -- if anything, the foul should have been called the other way. But Velasco is a referee who believes that every collision must have a cause. He awarded the free kick, and showed a second yellow which resulted in a red for Papastathopoulos.