Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland are bracing for what looks the most politically-charged match of the tournament tomorrow here when they face Russia who are on a high after thrashing the Czech Republic 4-1.
With Poland coach Franciszek Smuda tipping Russia as Group A favourites, his squad know they have to prove their staying power after throwing away a lead and drawing 1-1 with Greece in a tense tournament opener in Warsaw's National Stadium on Friday.
Dutchman Dick Advocaat’s Russia, whose base-camp is in the Polish capital Warsaw, returned there victorious after taking the Czechs to pieces on Friday in the southwestern city of Wroclaw. “It’s going to be another interesting game for both teams,” said Advocaat, who has less need to bang the drum.
“The match with Russia is going to be something completely different,” said 22-year-old midfielder Maciej Rybus, who signed for Russian club Terek Grozny from Legia Warsaw this year.
“They don't defend like the Greeks. But we’ll have got more used to the championship feel.”
‘Stop the Russian’
Warsaw: Polish media called on the Poland side to “stop the Russians” in Tuesday's high-octane clash which could decide the fate of the co-hosts in the tournament.
“The goal for tomorrow: stop the Russians,” the centre-left daily Gazeta Wyborcza said Monday. “It’s a battle for the result, for honour, for our place in history,” it added.
“A decisive encounter," the daily Polska said. “Wake up! Russia or death!” the Wprost weekly chimed.
On guard before the crucial game
SPORTING ENCOUNTERS between Poland and Russia always have an extra edge due to antipathy spanning the Tsarist and Soviet eras, stoked by Moscow's resurgence under President Vladimir Putin.
There are fears that that could fuel trouble between Polish and Russian hooligans, as both countries are home to a violent hardcore.
UEFA has already initiated proceedings against Russia after its fans lit and threw fireworks and ‘Russian Empire’ flags during the Czech game.
Russian Football Union head Sergey Fursenko criticised the troublemakers and in a further gesture on Sunday laid a wreath at a memorial to Poland's late president Lech Kaczynski.