Poland coach Franciszek Smuda said the stunning Arena Gdansk was "the most beautiful stadium in Europe" as his side marked their first game there with a 2-2 draw against Germany on Tuesday.
It could have been even more memorable for the hosts, who were seconds from their first ever win against their neighbours before Cacau's added-time goal took off some of the gloss. But only a little; the pride in UEFA EURO 2012's newest venue eased frustrations.
"I have played in many stadiums but this one stands out," said Poland captain Jakub Błaszczykowski, whose penalty had restored his side's advantage before Cacau's intervention. "As a Pole I am really proud to have such a ground. I know a few people did not believe that we could organise such great tournament like UEFA EURO 2012. When you have a look at this ground you realise that we really can."
Located in Gdansk's Letnica neighbourhood, the 40,000-capacity arena certainly leaves a lasting impression. Situated in the middle of a triangle formed by the Old Town, the famous shipyards and the airport, the venue's curved 45,000 square metre exterior consists of 18,000 plates designed to resemble amber, which has long been extracted along the Baltic coast.
"It looks fantastic," declared Grzegorz Lato, president of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN), thoughts echoes by Polish-born Germany striker Lukas Podolski. Surveying his new surroundings, Smuda added: "
I remember Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, saying it would be the most beautiful stadium in Europe. I have to agree with him."
For two players the night had special resonance. FC Sochaux-Montbéliard defender Damien Perquis made his international debut while at the other end of the scale Michał Żewłakow received UEFA's new commemorative cap and medal for European national team players who have reached 100 caps. "I feel honoured that UEFA honoured me in such a special place before such a historic event," said the Legia Warszawa defender. "Today I think we in Poland had our first real taste of EURO."
The Arena Gdansk, which took two and a half years to construct and includes a hotel and roller skating circuit, will host three group games and a quarter-final next summer. It opened in June and witnessed its first match on 14 August when tenants KS Lechia Gdańsk drew 1-1 with MKS Cracovia Kraków.
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