Warsaw and the rest of Poland will soon reach fever pitch with one of the most anticipated games of the group stage just around the corner.
There is plenty of history and rivalry when Russia and Poland lock horns, and Tuesday’s UEFA EURO 2012 encounter is the talk of the town. I was at the Bristol Hotel this morning speaking to the Russian players when I stumbled upon Wojciech Kowalewski. The goalkeeper may not be the most well-known player around Europe, but he is big star in Poland and surprisingly also in Russia, where he played as a goalkeeper for FC Spartak Moskva for four years from 2003 to 2007.
With an in-depth knowledge of both Polish and Russian football, this was too good an opportunity to miss, so of course I decided to ask him how he thought Tuesday’s encounter would turn out. The 35-year-old, who now works for Polish television and was at the hotel to interview his old Spartak colleague Roman Pavlyuchenko, said: “Russia are the favourites as they were very impressive against the Czech Republic, while I think Poland missed an opportunity against the Greece when we could only get a draw.”
In the build-up to Russia’s opening game against the Czech Republic, Andrey Arshavin commented that he “didn’t think Russia were a quick team”. However, that statement brought a wry smile from Kowalewski. “I think Russia’s main strength is their speed,” he said. “They showed in the game against the Czechs how impressive they were on the counterattack and they have the potential to cause us a lot of problems.”
Kowalewski, capped 11 times by Poland, was pessimistic about his own country’s chances saying: “I think we have some good individuals, the problem is that we just don’t play that well as a team.” Poland showed in the first 20 minutes of their clash with the Greeks that they have the potential to cause problems, but as Kowalewski rightly pointed out, they will be in for a tough test, despite a fanatical crowd behind them, against a Russian side whose confidence is sky-high.