Continuity does not always breed success. For the first time in a UEFA European Championship, Russia fielded the same starting XI in consecutive matches, but how different the two games were.
Andrey Arshavin is crowded out
Last night Dick Advocaat’s side failed to find the same fluency that helped them ease to a 4-1 victory against the Czech Republic four days ago, but that was down in no small part to opponents Poland. Aleksandr Kerzhakov explained: “Everything was more difficult than in the match against the Czech Republic, but we still had our chances to score a second goal. We were lacking something in the final few metres.”
Before UEFA EURO 2012, Advocaat had identified Poland as Russia’s toughest obstacle. Roared on by a partisan crowd, the co-hosts undoubtedly gained inspiration. They were on the back foot for considerable parts of the game yet their passion never wilted. With Jakub Blaszczykowski pulling the strings in midfield and Robert Lewandowski a constant menace in attack, Poland always looked like they could get at least the draw that their coach Franciszek Smuda craved.
The home side were not pretty to watch at times, but they were effective both in attack and defence. Most importantly, they managed to contain Roman Shirokov’s surges from midfield and kept a lid on the three-pronged attack that had caused so much damage to the Czech Republic.
Alan Dzagoev breaks the deadlock
Russia’s approach play was very easy on the eye, with Andrey Arshavin once again impressive. However, with Poland happy to defend in numbers, Advocaat’s side found it difficult to find that killer pass and final touch that would have been the difference between a draw and gaining all three points. Russia will have to improve if they have aspirations of making the competition’s latter stages.
Although Russia’s players were deflated after the final whistle, feeling they had dropped two points, they are still in a very good position. They remain top of Group A and a draw against Greece on Saturday will see them through to the knockout stages.
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