Poland coach Franciszek Smuda is counting on a mix of strong defense and fluid counterattacking in their final Group A match today against a Czech Republic team who will be wary about not falling for the same trick twice at Euro 2012.
Poland’s glory days in the 1970s and 1980s were based on that style of play, and it was the model Smuda’s men adopted in an exhilarating second-half performance against Russia that earned the co-hosts a 1-1 draw.
Smuda plans to stick to his guns, even though the Czech Republic may not take the bait after showing against Greece they were content to sit back following a stunning 4-1 loss to Russia, who soaked up early pressure before launching devastating counterattacks.
“We do not need to [be more attacking],” Smuda said. “The Italians only defend and they seem to be able to win as well. Why shouldn’t we?”
Russia top the group with four points ahead of the Czech Republic on three, Poland with two and Greece with one.
An exhilarating comeback against Russia has buoyed one of the tournament hosts to believe Smuda’s squad are capable of doing what no other Poland side has done before — win a game at a European Championships.
“We know that the Czechs can make do with a draw,” striker Robert Lewandowski said. “We need to win. We can say that we are getting better and better with each game, and we hope the third time is a treat.”
Poland are also struggling with injury worries, but not as severe as the Czech Republic, who are sweating over the fitness of captain and playmaker Tomas Rosicky.
The playmaker, whose creativity and passing skills fuel the Czech Republic attack, injured his Achilles in the 2-1 win over Greece and said he could barely stand on Wednesday.
Team officials said Rosicky’s fitness was improving, but he is still doubtful for today. The team received better news on Petr Cech’s sore shoulder when the goalkeeper said he would be ready to play.
“I will be fine,” Cech said on Thursday. “The only question mark is about Rosicky.”
The Czech Republic, who will also have thousands of their own fans at the stadium less than an hour’s drive from the border, also need to find a way to keep up the pressure for a full 90 minutes.
Against Russia, they had the early run of play until Russia took over, and after a stunning first six minutes against Greece that brought them two goals, the Czech Republic had a nervy ride, hanging on for a 2-1 win.
The Czech Republic have not fared well recently against Poland, losing to their central European neighbors in three of their four past meetings.
“We hope we will start the same way we did the first two games,” Cech said. “Against Russia, we were unable to score and we need to capitalize the way we did against Greece.”