Today’s clash between Poland and the Czech Republic will probably determine which side advances to the next round — the final eight. Poland needs a win to make it.
Poland will probably seek victory by attacking down the right flank where two of its three best players (fullback Piszczek and midfielder Blaszczykowski) reside. The latter has been one of the very best players in the tournament so far. Poland’s other big star (forward Lewandowski) often drifts to the right side, as well. All three play for German champions Borussia Dortmund, so they work beautifully together.
Meanwhile, the Czechs have been vulnerable to attacks from the right. In their opening match, a 1-4 defeat by Russia, left back Kadlec was repeatedly exposed. In the second match, he moved to central defense. His replacement, Limbersky did okay but that was against Greece.
Whoever plays left back today will need help from Pilar on the left side of the Czech midfield. Pilar has been the best player Czech player so far, but that’s based on his attacking skill. He has yet to display much quality in defense. But at least the threat Pilar poses may cause Piszcek, the Polish right back, to feel somewhat constrained from joining the attack.
In any event, much of the action should be on that side of the field.
UPDATE: Czech Republic 1, Greece 0. Man of the match: Pilar (no questions about his defensive quality now). Flop of the match: Piszczek.
There was plenty of action on the Polish right side/Greek left side. But after the first fifteen minutes, it was the Czech’s who were finding joy. Oddly, the tide turned after Limberski picked up a yellow card. With Poland having already created several scoring opportunities, that should have been the signal for even more Polish attacks down the right flank. Instead, Blaszczykowski starting popping up elsewhere, and seeing less of the ball when was on the right. At that point, the momentum swung to the Czechs. As Taylor Twellman said on ESPN, the match turned after Blaszczykowski stopped receiving the ball “early and often.”
Meanwhile, Greece stunned Russia 1-0, in a highly improbable victory, and claims a spot in the second round, along with the Czechs. They don’t call this “the group of life” for nothing.
Russia had 69 percent of possession and outshot Greece 31-8 [note: the revised count is 62 percent of possession for Russia, 25-5 for shots, and 10-2 for shots on target, but having seen the tape I don't think this shot count is right]. Greece goes through instead of Russia because the tie-breaker is the head-to-head result. The usual tie-breaker, overall goal difference, would have seen Russia advance instead of Greece. As Buster Roth might say, that’s one lucky set of Greeks.
From a football perspective, I’m sad to see Russia out of the tournament. But from my political perspective, it’s a happy result.
If form holds in Group B tomorrow, Greece will play Germany next, in a match-up (some would say a mismatch) of banker and debtor.