Among the crowd: Poland shows its hospitality writer Lachlan Taylor is documenting his European football experiences, from the terraces to the beer halls and from England to the Ukraine

By Lachlan Taylor

Football has well and truly come to Poland, but the locals do not seem to mind one bit.

With Euro 2012 now in full swing, the tournament has taken over every facet of life in the country for the next month.

This is the first time the tournament has been held in Eastern Europe, as Poland shares the hosting duties with neighbours the Ukraine.

And having spent more than a week in Poland, watching games from all angles, it is clear the locals have embraced the biggest international event to be held on their soil.

On the day of the opening ceremony in the capital Warsaw, up to 140,000 fans gathered in the city centre to watch Poland draw 1-1 in the opening game against Greece. And that is not counting the 60,000 at the National Stadium who watched the game live, or the countless millions across the country who tuned in at home.

The lowest-ranked team in the tournament, the host nation are considered an underdog to make it out of their group.  But do not tell the Polish fans that.

Dressed in an array of red and white, the Poles sung, clapped and bounced in unison as they urged their team forward with cries of 'Polska bialo-czerwoni!' [Poland white and red].

An early goal from Polish pin up Robert Lewandowski nearly brought the house down, but a reply from Dimitris Salpingidis after Greece had gone down to 10 men, and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny's subsequent dismissal put a dampener on the mood in the capital.

But despite the disappointment of the result, the Poles remained excellent hosts, and I did not witness any of the violence or danger on the streets of Warsaw that has been so talked about.

Poland fans will go to great lengths to cheer their team on.

My next dose of Polish hospitality was at the home of a friend family on the outskirts of Warsaw.

After watching Denmark shock the Netherlands 1-0 over a feast of bratwurst and cabbage, we all voiced our support for teams in the following match - Germany and Portugal.

My disdain for show pony Cristiano Ronaldo meant I would be supporting Joachim Low's side, but I quickly discovered I would be in the minority.

Germany occupied Poland for six years during World War II and destroyed most of Warsaw before withdrawing from the city in 1945, and the wounds have not completely healed.

My friend's uncle Piotr put it simply - "We do not like Germans".

That was not enough to stop the Germans though, who eked out a 1-0 win over Ronaldo's Portugal.

Next it was onto Wroclaw, where I would get my first taste of live Euro 2012 football when Greece took on the Czech Republic.

Evidence of the country's football fever was no more clearer than in Wroclaw, where more than 15,000 Czech fans made the short trip across the border from their homeland to cheer on their side.

Most arrived by train hours before kick-off, when a sea of red marched to the brand new stadium in Wroclaw.

Once inside it was clear the Greek fans, who numbered about 5000, would struggle to be heard over the bellowing, whistling Czechs.

Anytime the blue end of the stadium tried to raise their voices, a chorus of whistles from the Czechs drowned them out.

The Czech Republic's fans also made their feelings known towards their own coach, Michal Bilek, who was booed and whistled everytime he came on screen.

Any resentment was shortlived as their side came out firing with two goals in the opening six minutes, leaving the fans literally dancing in the stands.

An injury to captain Tomas Rosicky and a calamitous error from goalkeeper Petr Cech soon changed that though, with the Greek fans finding their voice as their team pressed for a winner.

It was not to be, however, and the Czech fans went home happy, no doubt singing all the way home.

Czech fans held the numerical advantage in their nation's match against Greece.

Before the game finished there was an odd sight at the stadium, as the 15,000 or so Polish fans at the ground left 10 minutes before the final whistle.

This of course was so they could make it back home or to the fan zone to watch the hosts' biggest game of the group stage - against Russia in Warsaw.

I too managed to make it back into the city centre just in time for kick-off, where the Polish fans had gathered around every available television to watch the match.

Many had been saying all week that they did not care if Poland made it out of the group stage, as long as they beat Russia.

Like in their first game, Poland outplayed Russia for much of the first half, but went behind against the run of play to a goal from Alan Dzagoev.

They would not give up, however, and captain Jakub Błaszczykowski gave them hope with a scintillating equaliser.

The volume among the fans, both at the stadium and in the fan zone, was deafening.  But try as they might, the 12th man could not get Poland over the line.

After the match we heard the reports of violence between Russian and Polish fans on the streets of Warsaw, but having been to three of the host cities so far in my travels, I am yet to witness anything of the sort.

I just hope those few bad eggs do not spoil what promises to be an exciting conclusion to the tournament.

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