- Associated Press - Monday, June 11, 2012

WARSAW — National hero Andriy Shevchenko ensured co-host Ukraine made a memorable entry into the European Championship on Monday.

Arguably the greatest ever Ukrainian player, Shevchenko, 35, scored with two headers in the second half to seal a 2-1 comeback victory against Sweden in Kiev.

Shevchenko got a standing ovation as he left the pitch when substituted with 10 minutes remaining and celebrated with arms aloft in front of his adoring fans after the final whistle.

Earlier in Group D, old rivals England and France drew 1-1 in hot and humid conditions at Donetsk, close to Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.

Just a few thousand fans journeyed from Western Europe, and the 50,000-capacity Donbass Arena rang to regular chants of “Russia, Russia” during the match.

Russia also was on officials’ minds in Poland before a potentially tense day Tuesday in Warsaw where the Group A leader plays the co-host. City authorities played down fears of clashes based on the two countries’ troubled political history, and violence involving Russian fans in Wroclaw last Friday.

On Day 4 of Euro 2012, Ukraine and Sweden were the final teams to enter the action and rocked the Olympic Stadium to its newly — and expensively — rebuilt foundations.

Sweden’s star striker and captain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, struck a post in the first half and gave his side the lead in the 52nd minute with a neat, near-post finish.

Shevchenko, the Ukraine captain, leveled three minutes later, then headed the eventual winner in the 61st when he darted forward to meet a corner from the left flank.

“We showed today our character, our good football,” Shevchenko said. “We have very good chances to qualify.”

Reviving the France-England rivalry set a theme for the week, with Poland and Russia next and then neighbors Germany and the Netherlands meeting Wednesday.

England took the lead when captain Steven Gerrard curled in a free kick from the right and defender Joleon Lescott rose to head past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

France soon equalized when Samir Nasri fired in a low shot, which beat the dive of ‘keeper Joe Hart, his Manchester City teammate.

With 19 attempts on goal to England’s three — and Lescott’s strike the only one on target — France appeared unlucky not to win.

“In the second half, I think we could have scored a second goal,” France coach Laurent Blanc said. “But overall, I think it’s a fair draw for both sides.”

England appeared to tire more in energy-sapping heat, and has never won its first match at a European Championship in six tries.

Polish media fired up anti-Russian feeling Monday by reminding readers of Poland’s victorious 1920 battle against the Bolshevik Army, known as “the miracle on the Vistula,” referring to the river.

The Super Express tabloid carried a front page featuring Poland coach Franciszek Smuda charging on horseback, saber in hand, in a 1920 Polish army uniform under the headline “Faith, Hope, Smuda” — a play on an old Polish army motto: “Faith, Home, Motherland.”

Newsweek’s Polish edition had a front-page picture of Smuda saluting, under the headline: “Poland-Russia: The battle of Warsaw 2012.”

The match in Warsaw falls on the Russia Day national holiday, and up to 10,000 fans will march from the city center to the stadium.

“There should not be any political themes there,” Sergei Fursenko, Russia’s football federation president, said on Russian state TV.

A group of Russians made a friendship gesture Monday by placing flowers at a monument to the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising against Nazi German occupiers in 1944. The fans also laid flowers at a cemetery to Red Army troops killed driving the Germans from the city in January 1945.

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