WARSAW – Russia’s hopes of becoming the first side to make it into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals were dashed on Tuesday as co-hosts Poland fought back to draw 1-1 in their Group A clash.
With Czech Republic keeping their hopes alive with a 2-1 win over Greece, gaining some revenge for their painful semi-final loss to the Greeks in Euro 2004, it means that the Poles will have to beat the Czechs in their final match on Saturday.
The Poles, though, may well be boosted by the fact there are serious doubts over whether Czech captain Tomas Rosicky will be fit for the match as he was unable to play in the second-half because of a suspected Achilles tendon problem.
Russia, who had their national day celebrations dampened by the draw, just need a point against the Greeks, whose hopes hang by a thread.
The Russians looked as if they were well set for the last eight when their young star 21-year-old Alan Dzagoev headed in a first-half goal – his third of the tournament – only for a stunning effort by Polish captain ‘Kuba’ Blaszczykowski in the 57th minute to give the Poles a deserved point.
Russia’s coach Dick Advocaat praised Poland for their performance but added he was happy with the point.
“Poland played very well tonight being under the risk of losing the chance to win a place in the last eight if they lost,” he said.
“Meanwhile, we allowed them to create too many chances in attack.
“That means we still need to strengthen our defence. We also played well and scored before the break and had many chances in the second but we missed them all. In general, I’d say the draw is a good result for us,” said the 64-year-old Dutchman.
His Polish counterpart Franciszek Smuda was proud of his players, who have only had a series of friendlies to fine tune their preparations.
“We’ve played many good matches… in 2011 we started to build a team and it proved that we are improving and playing better and better.
“Today’s match proved that we are able to win against the Czechs. Our team sees this chance of being promoted to the knockout phase and we’ll try to do that,” said Smuda, who would not be drawn on whether he would restore Wojciech Szczesny as goalkeeper as he returns from suspension.
As for Blaszczykowski it was a case of the enormous character the squad has that always sees them fight to the bitter end.
“We have this character and charisma. We’re still in the game, we have two points. We’re tired but we’re happy. We’ll recover and do everything that we can,” he said.
Czech coach Michal Bilek praised his players’ ability to cope with the pressure but bemoaned the fact he and veteran striker Milan Baros had been jeered by their supporters.
“I know that I am not popular, but what do you want me to do?
“For Baros, well he did not deserve that, he has after all scored 41 goals for the national side.
“I am sorry that they whistled, because our supporters created a great atmosphere, but that is really pathetic.”