RUSSIA CAN BOOK their spot in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals with victory against co-hosts Poland in Warsaw on Tuesday.
Dick Advocaat’s side made an excellent start to the tournament, with a 4-1 Group A win against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw on Friday.
They are unbeaten in 15 games, defeated Italy 3-0 in their last friendly prior to Euro 2012 and dominated the Czechs in a sublime display of attacking football.
But despite all that, Advocaat says there is no chance of complacency creeping into the Russian camp.
“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, a different opponent, and I think it will be a tougher match than the first one. It’s going to be another interesting game for both teams in another great stadium.”
Midfielder Alan Dzagoev scored a brace against the Czech Republic, while Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko also got on the scoresheet.
The link play between Dzagoev, Andrey Arshavin and Alexander Kerzhakov in the attacking third was a joy to watch, and although the latter missed a hatful of chances, he will still be pleased with the amount of times he was able to get the ball in dangerous positions.
Kerzhakov did have seven attempts at goal that were off target – the most recorded for any match by a player at the European Championship finals – and Advocaat might be tempted to bring in Pavlyuchenko off the bench.
Poland’s opening match was very different. They dominated the first half, scored first through Robert Lewandowski and should have been ahead by two or three goals at the break.
But they weren’t, and a 10-man Greece outfit made them pay, with the co-hosts perhaps lucky to even finish with a point after Przemyslaw Tyton saved a Giorgios Karagounis penalty – that came after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was given a straight red – and Dimitris Salpingidis had a goal ruled out for offside.
Poland coach Franciszek Smuda felt the occasion – his side opened the tournament in front of a large, expectant crowd – had got to his side afterwards.
“I can tell you we were very well prepared but we were under great pressure, great stress, and I think it was a big burden for this very young team who have not played in a big tournament before,” Smuda said.
“A draw is not the end of it; this tournament is still open. We have two matches to go and should not dwell on this but just focus on the next one and winning it.”
Tyton will be called on again with fellow goalkeeper Szczesny (suspended), while the latter’s Arsenal team-mate Lukasz Fabianski, also a ‘keeper, was ruled out of the tournament after injuring his shoulder in training.
Russia are only likely to make changes if Advocaat favours a change in personnel.
Poland have conceded just one goal in their last 551 minutes of competitive play and will have the backing of a passionate home crowd again, but they will need to be at their best to deny an in-form Russia.