WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 08: Robert Lewandowski of Poland in action during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Poland and Greece at National Stadium on June 8, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Poland got off to a good start in their first match of Euro 2012, but stopped playing when they grabbed a 1-0 lead. On Tuesday, they play a Russia team that will be much more difficult to get a result from.
Poland started brilliantly against Greece in the opening match of Euro 2012, abusing the weak left flank of the Greeks and getting the ball into their penalty area frequently. Their aggression and energy eventually paid off with a goal, scored by Robert Lewandowski in the first half. Then, Poland shut off.
From 30 minutes of football and 60 minutes of essentially standing around, the hosts got a 1-1 draw, and based on the chances that Greece missed, they probably should have lost. They're still in a position where they control their own destiny in Group A, but considering the amount of time Greece spent with 10 men after Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off, the result was a poor one.
They face a significant step up in competition on Tuesday when they face Russia, who look like an even better version of the team that made a shock run to the semifinals of Euro 2008. The Russians hardly even looked bothered with the Czech Republic, who scored an impressive goal on one nice move, but were otherwise terrible in a 4-1 Russian win.
Poland have a bit more firepower than the Czechs, but they look like a very similar team with similar problems on paper, making Russia a clear favorite even though they'll be playing in a hostile environment. Like the Czechs, Poland plays a 4-2-3-1 formation with a double pivot and back line that don't really inspire confidence. They'll have Przemyslaw Tyton in goal for the suspended Wojciech Szczesny, and he doesn't exactly inspire the same confidence that Petr Cech does.
The firepower that Poland possesses is significant, however, and is certainly good enough that they could pull off an upset with a couple of great counter attacks. Ludovic Obraniak is going to be more effective than the hobbled version of Tomas Rosicky that played on Friday, and there's no doubt that Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski are more dangerous than anything the Czechs have going forward. The Russian back line is going to have to be on their game, and the Russian team as a whole won't be able to throw players forward with reckless abandon like they did against the Czechs.
Beyond that slight tactical tweak, the Russians probably won't change much. The only lineup change that could make sense for Dick Advocaat is bringing in Roman Pavlyuchenko for Aleksandr Kerzhakov. It's been a rough few years for Pavlyuchenko since Euro 2008, but he looked brilliant as he bagged a goal and an assist off the bench on Friday. In contrast, Kerzhakov was largely ineffective and completely shanked a high volume of shots.
Projected Poland Lineup (4-2-3-1): Przemyslaw Tyton; Sebastian Boenisch, Damien Perquis, Marcin Wasilewski, Lukasz Piszczek; Rafal Murawski, Eugen Polanski; Maciej Rybus, Ludovic Obraniak, Jakub Blaszczykowski; Robert Lewandowski
Projected Russia Lineup (4-3-3): Vyacheslav Malafeev; Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksei Berezutskiy, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Anyukov; Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Roman Shirokov; Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Alan Dzagoev
Monty the Psychic Metal Disk says: MEERKAT! MEERKAT! MEERKAT! 3-1 Russia.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, June 12th, 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. local
Venue: National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland
TV: ESPN (U.S. - English), ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), ITV 1 (U.K.), TSN (Canada)