Poland add security: Smuda made a slight change to his lineup from the match against Greece; wary of Russia’s propensity to try to play through teams, he selected Dudka as a protective midfielder, allowed Polanski and Murawski more freedom to push forward, and shifted Obraniak from his position behind Lewandowski against Greece to the left side role that Rybus assumed in that game.
With Dudka behind him, Murawski was given greater licence to roam against Russia than against Greece, where his play was concentrated around the left side of the centre circle. Simultaneously his impact on the game waned (he attempted and completed fewer than half as many passes against Russia as he did against Greece), perhaps because of the slight change in approach or perhaps simply because Russia are a better team than Greece and Poland had much less possession overall. Make no mistake, this was a good move for Smuda, as even if Murawski’s influence was reduced, the team was much better set up to combat Russia in this configuration.
Russia unable to make possssion pay: Russia registered 60% of possession, but almost by stealth as they didn’t seem to dominate the ball and Poland looked the more likely to score. Russia did take the lead from a set piece, as Dzagoev was abandoned by Piszczek to glance in a header uncontested, but Tyton had very little else to be concerned with. Poland managed six shots on target, three in each half, as they were much more creative with the possession they did have. They had a goal ruled out for offside after a beautiful passing move which would have been a clear contender for goal of the tournament due to the slick one-touch passing and they way it tore the Russian defence open.
Blaszczykowski eventually did equalise from open play, with a clever run around Zhirkov and an excellent curling finish in at the far post. Unfortunately he then wasted possession on several occasions by trying to shoot from all angles and distances, with one such attempt even going out for a throw. Arshavin was taking notes, as he managed to get one of his own shots out for a throw too. It’s not often that happens twice in one game…
Russia only have Greece to play and will take their place in the quarter finals, where they will need to improve their creativity from this showing in order to progress further. Poland on the other hand have an intriguing match against the Czech Republic to come, where the Czechs have the benefit of a win over Greece, but Poland look threatening and it could be a very exciting game to watch between two creative teams.
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