Arguably the biggest game in Group A: Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland vs Russia. This game will decide who will have the best chance leaving the group and move on to the quarter-finals. It won't be easy, as seen with Russia's 4-1 stomping over Czech Republic, but Poland have shown in this tournament that they know how to play as well. In addition to the football aspect of this game, there will be strong political overtones riding - like any other match when Poland plays Russia or Germany.
Super Express, a Polish tabloid, had Poland's coach Franciszek Smuda on its latest cover riding horseback, carrying a sword and dressed in a 1920 Polish army uniform, harking back to the country's victorious battle against the Bolshevik army, known as the Miracle on the Vistula. The headline read "Faith, Hope, Smuda", playing off the old Polish army saying "Faith, Home, Motherland."
"In 1920 (the Russians) also thought (they would win) ... they got a spanking," the tabloid said. "(Tuesday) they will get the taste of defeat again because Poland's team will show them Miracle on the Vistula 2."
In a press conference, Smuda stated he was not interested in the historical and political issues between the countries, and would rather focus on the football aspect.
"We in general are not thinking about this at all," he revealed in a press conference. "We are thinking about football... what takes place on the streets, we are less interested in that. We are concentrating on the game."
Football or not, the fans of both nations have a different idea regarding the game. Be sure to expect a heated emotional fixture between two historical rival nations.
Coach Franciszek Smuda is reportedly making some changes for the game with Russia. Przemysław Tyton will hold the fort in net for the red-carded Wojciech Szczesny, and Dariusz Dudka will replace Maciej Rybus. This change clearly shows that Smuda will be strengthening his side's defensive build - no surprise considering the opponent is best when attacking. Three central defensive midfielders may perhaps be a risky move, but the Polish defence showed in the last game that it clearly needs help.
Russia's defence isn't the best, so I also expect Smuda to add some more attacking flavour into his squad for the game. This means putting Adrian Mierzejewski in the middle for Ludovic Obraniak, whose creativity could cause problems for Dick Advocaat's team. Kamil Grosicki is another possible candidate to find some playing time in the game after featuring with Smuda in a recent press conference.
With regards to the defence, Smuda will likely keep the same set-up as before. Sebastian Boenisch may have been the weakest link in the Polish defence, but Smuda will continue to favour him over Jakub Wawrzyniak. Rafal Murawski and Eugen Polanski will also have to enjoy a strong game; as the two central defensive midfielders expected to start, they will provide the first line of the defence. Polanski played really well against the Greeks, so there is not much concern about him against Russia; it is only Murawski who is questionable. Can he play a full 90 minutes of convincing football against Russia? Smuda believes so, we will have to take his word on that.
The favourites of Group A, and with good reason. With a 3-0 win against Italy before the tournament, and a 4-1 thumping over the Czechs in their first game, the Russians are clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Russia play in a Dutch-influenced style, which their coach, Dick Advocaat, implemented. This means they are very dangerous on the attack, especially on the wings. Andrei Arshavin will have trouble dealing with Lukasz Piszczek, but Alan Dzagoev will be a living nightmare for Boenisch, who will need help from his partners in defence to stop him. Poland's left back was the weakest link against Greece, with both goals resulting from that flank, so it should come as no surprise that Advocaat's men will be trying to take advantage of that as well.
A draw in a match against Russia would be a good result, but Poland will definitely be going for the win - not only to make up for the draw against Greece last week, but due to pride. Anything less on Polish soil and in the country's capital, Warsaw, would be unforgivable for Poland fans, and would see the co-host's chances of progress left to mathematics.
If Poland come out guns blazing like they did against the Greeks - and maintain their approach for the majority of the match this time and not only for the first 30 minutes - then I would not be surprised with a 2-1 win for Poland. Crazier things have been known to happen in past Euros.
Poland capped their Euro 2012 warm-up with a 4-0 win against minnows Andorra, with goals from foreign-based stars Ludovic Obraniak and Robert Lewandowski. Truth be told, the game looked more like a scrum than an actual friendly match, but was an expected win nonetheless.
Most people in Poland were somewhat surprised of how some of the reserves played in the second half against the Andorrans. I believe this hilarious clip of a Polish national team shooting practice session courtesy of Sport.pl journalist Michal Pol very much highlights the problem.
The video takes place at Polonia Warszawa's stadium, which is the official base for Poland for the European championship. During an open practice session, coach Tomasz Frankowski has some of the reserves practice taking shots at Grzegorz Sandomierski. The end result? A rather comical one, with 90% of the shots missing the target.
Pol, alongside with all the other journalists on the scene are shocked by what they are seeing. One journalist reminds Pol of a training session he visited on Sunday which was even worse. Reason? On that day the wooden block dummies were placed outside the penalty box. Guess that didn't turn out as well as planned, eh?
Luckily, the majority of the starting XI were not at this practice but were working out at the gym instead. Maciej Rybus was the only first team player taking part in this practice. Here’s hoping his shooting will be better on Friday.