Greece can take a giant step towards reaching the last-eight if they beat the Czechs, who they beat in the Euro 2004 semi-finals on their way to lifting the trophy, and all but consign their opponents to an early return home in Tuesday’s Euro 2012 Group A clash.
The Greeks showed great resolve to come from behind and draw 1-1 with Poland in their opening match while the Czechs suffered a 4-1 hammering against Russia. Dimitris Salpingidis was Greece’s hero in the Poland game and is likely to be rewarded by starting after he was brought on at the beginning of the second-half last Friday.
“Both games are difficult, Russia and against the Czech Republic,” said Salpingidis. “We will try to do our best and if we manage to qualify, we will all be very happy.”
Victory in itself would not guarantee the Greeks a place in the last-eight – even if group leaders Russia defeat Poland in Warsaw in tonight’s other match – but it would end Czech hopes of going beyond the group stage.
Poland tight-lipped as Russia clash looms
With Russia on a high after their win over Czech Republic, Poland are keeping their cards close to their chest as they brace for their politically-charged match tonight.
Poland coach Franciszek Smuda, who has dubbed Russia Group A favourites, is expected to make key changes to the line-up that drew 1-1 with Greece. There is speculation that Smuda could start midfielders Adrian Mierzejewski and Kamil Grosicki, of Turkish clubs Samsunspor and Sivasspor. They are seen as likely to replace Bordeaux’s Ludovic Obraniak and Maciej Rybus, despite the Terek Grozny player’s familiarity with the Russian league.
“We know what to look out for, so we know how to correct our mistakes,” said Robert Lewandowski. “You can expect a completely different game.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s match tonight could prove to be decisive in the team’s Euro 2012 fate, said their impressive forward Alexander Kerzhakov.
“The match with Poland may be the decisive game for a place in the knockout stage,” he said. “We all are in an upbeat mood after the opening win but now we have to forget about the match with the Czech Republic and prepare for the match with Poland the best possible way. I know it will be a really tough match. Poland are playing on their home turf in front of their home crowd, while the result of their match with Greece could hardly satisfy them.”
“The match against Poland won’t be easy. We will face opponents who play a completely different style. I hope we get a result similar to the previous match but the upcoming match will definitely be tougher for our team.”
“I will talk to my players and see if they know what went wrong and why they couldn’t play as we had planned. I’ve written all the mistakes they made on a big board, under the heading ‘What we should avoid’.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.
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