Today at Euro 2012: Poland v Russia; Greece v Czech Republic
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Tuesday 12 June 2012
Poland v Russia
Despite being overwhelming favourites to book their place in the knockout stages within two games, Russia have denied claims of complacency ahead of today's fixture against Poland.
Unbeaten in 15, Dick Advocaat's side kept up their excellent form with a classy opening-day win. But the coach believes his squad must have total concentration to finish the job.
"Not once have I seen the players thinking this will be an easy game, as there are no easy games," Advocaat said. "Against Poland it will be a different game and I think that it will be a tougher match than the first one [against the Czechs]."
Any tinkering is likely to be kept to a minimum, if at all. Aleksandr Kerzhakov is expected to be given a chance to redeem himself after a number of glaring misses.
Poland will call on penalty hero Przemyslaw Tyton again as Wojciech Szczesny serves a one-match ban for his sending off against the Greeks.
There is also talk that Poland coach Franciszek Smuda will ring the changes. Even though they started well, Smuda is worried about the burden of expectation from the home crowd: "We were very well prepared but we were under great pressure, great stress, and it was a big burden for this very young team."
And he rejected claims that the game is a must win, as their fate looks set to be decided in the final game against the Czechs. "A draw is not the end of it; this tournament is open," Smuda said. "We have two matches to go and should just focus on the next one and winning it."
Kick-off 7.45pm, Warsaw (ITV 1). Ref W Stark (Ger)
Odds: Poland 11-8 Draw 9-4 Russia 7-4
Greece v Czech Rep
Greece and the Czech Republic are struggling defensively ahead of their crucial second game in Group B.
The Greeks are without their preferred central pairing of Avraam Papadopoulos, out of the tournament with a knee injury, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who was harshly sent off in the 1-1 draw against Poland last week.
Although events conspired against his team in Warsaw, Greece's coach, Fernando Santos, was angry that his players had not followed pre-match instructions – notably during a frantic opening in which they allowed the hosts to dominate.
"I am very well aware of the mistakes that my [players] made," he said. "Before the match, I made out a list of all the things the players should avoid doing. And those are all the things they did."
The Czechs' problems are of their own making, after they conceded four against Russia. Their coach, Michal Bilek, might be tempted to reshuffle his pack. Tomas Hubschman could be included to provide extra protection for a shaky back four. The goalkeeper Petr Cech wants his team to be more aggressive going forward, but is wary of Greece's ability to hit them on the break. "The result of the first match means we have to go out and be attacking in our second game," the Chelsea keeper said. "But it will not be all-out attack as that would open us up at the back."
If they were to lose again, Bilek's side would be the first country out of the competition, something of which the defender Roman Hubník is all too aware. "The pressure for this game will be higher than the pressure against Russia," he said.
Kick-off 5pm, Wroclaw (ITV 1) Ref S Lannoy (Fra)
Odds Greece 11-5 Draw 9-4 Czech Rep 7-5
Player to watch: Roman Shirokov, Russia
The strength of this Russia side is their fluid movement, their ability to tease teams apart and tear through the gaps. The whole side can do this, but no one is more astute or more ruthless than Roman Shirokov. The Zenit St Petersburg schemer is the deadly man in the Russia midfield. While the full-backs overlap and the forwards pull left and right or drop off, Shirokov waits as the situation develops in front of him. Anticipating the runs of players, sensing the creation of space, judging the timing of his dart forward and then finishing precisely: Shirokov is one of this tournament's sharpest attacking midfielders. He showed as much in Russia's marvellous 4-1 win over the Czech Republic on Friday. He started one move, finding Andrei Arshavin, before continuing his run into the box. Arshavin played the ball back to him and he flicked it perfectly over Petr Cech with the outside of his right foot. It was classic Shirokov. He has been doing this very often recently: he scored five Champions League goals for Zenit last season, equalling the Russian record. A relatively late arrival in elite football – he made his Russia debut at 26 after years in the lower leagues – he has since made himself an important part of a Zenit side whose winning habit Russia might just replicate.
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