Caution seems to be the watchword as Poland approach their second match in Group A against Russia. Dick Advocaat has assembled a slick Russian side who sent out a powerful signal of intent in their opening fixture when they swept aside an experienced Czech Republic team.
On the evidence of that performance, Poland are right to be wary and it wasn’t a surprise to see Dariusz Dudka sitting alongside Franciszek Smuda at Monday evening’s press conference. Of course, it’s always dangerous to read too much into the personnel who appear at press conferences. We’ve all been at pressers, as they’re called in the trade, where a player has been put up for interview who doesn’t even make the substitutes’ bench the next day.
However, in this case I suspect that Dudka – Poland’s most experienced player with 63 caps – will be handed a key role against Russia, although Smuda did his best to throw the media off the scent, insisting it was press officer Tomasz Rzasa’s decision to nominate Dudka. “I knew it was a huge mistake to bring him,” the coach joked.
Poland face a tough task against Russia
Smuda always likes to play two holding midfielders with Eugen Polanski and Rafal Murawski the preferred partnership recently. I’d expect both to start again on Tuesday with the versatile Dudka tucked in behind as an extra screen in front of the defence. The Poland coach will have noticed the ease with which Russia slipped precise passes through the middle of the Czech rearguard in Wroclaw. Quite simply, Dudka and his two assistants will be told to cut out the ammunition to Russia’s potent front three.
So who will Smuda leave out, I hear you ask? I’ve heard a lot of speculation today that Ludovic Obraniak will be the unlucky one, but I’d have thought that Maciej Rybus would be the more obvious choice. The FC Terek Grozny winger didn’t overly impress against Greece and Obraniak is familiar with the left midfield role having played there at club level. The switch could also prove beneficial for left-back Sebastian Boenisch, who is still struggling for match fitness following his long injury absence.
Either way, it’s a strategy that hints at containment rather than expansion. Faced with a Russian bear on the prowl, poking it in the eye with a big stick is probably not the smartest tactic to adopt. Tiring it out and hitting back with a sucker-punch on the other hand might just be the right approach. As Smuda himself admitted: “We don’t want to lose.”