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Co-hosts Poland face must-win Euro 2012 game

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16 Jun 2012 05:47:21

Co-hosts Poland face must-win Euro 2012 game

It is win or bust for co-hosts Poland as they take on the Czech Republic on Saturday knowing that any other result would see them exit the European Championship.

Poland may have played well in their opening two Group A matches but they failed to win either and currently sit third with just two points.

The Czech Republic have three points and failure to win would mean that the Poles could overtake neither the Czechs nor group leaders Russia, who have four points.

It means the co-hosts find themselves in a situation that looked highly unlikely after 45 minutes of their opening game against Greece.

A goal and a man to the good and playing vibrant attacking football, Franciszek Smuda's team looked to be fulfilling the pre-tournament promise that a 2-2 friendly draw with Germany in September had started to foment.

That all looked to be disintegrating as Greece stormed back to snatch a 1-1 draw and could even have won after Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off, giving away a penalty to boot.

Substitute goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton was the hero as he saved Giorgos Karagounis's spot-kick and kept the Poles from defeat.

Szczesny has served his one-match suspenson and Smuda must now decide whether to recall the Arsenal stopper or stick with PSV Eindhoven's Tyton.

Smuda said he will decide only 24 hours before the game but Szczesny believes the competition is good for them both.

"Whether I play in the last game or not, that's up to the manager. I'm available, I feel confident, I'm ready to play, so I'm hoping I'll be in the starting lineup," he said.

"This is what football's about. You want to fight for your spot. That can only help the team, people fighting for their places."

Things could have been worse for Poland as they trailed 1-0 to Alan Dzagoev's goal for Russia in the next group game but captain Jakub Blaszczykowski's superb equaliser maintained their unbeaten run and kept them in with a shot at qualification.

The hosts have some injury worries, though, with defender Damien Perquis and midfielders Eugen Polanski and Dariusz Dudka all doubts having suffered injuries against Russia on Tuesday.

An abdominal strain has made Dudka the most doubtful of the three while Perquis is recovering from a gashed shin and Polanski is suffering from a bruised knee.

While Poland have injury concerns and need to win, the Czechs are in almost exactly the same boat.

They could qualify with a draw but only if Greece don't beat Russia, otherwise they will be out.

It means they too need to win to be sure of progressing but they have concerns over two crucial players, captain Tomas Rosicky and goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Arsenal midfielder Rosicky is the bigger doubt after what he believes is a recurrence of a calf injury he suffered in the final Premier League game of the season forced him to miss the second half of their 2-1 win over Greece.

Chelsea goalkeeper Cech has a sore shoulder and is desperate to play to make up for his gaffe that allowed the Greeks a route back into a match in which the Czechs had established an early two-goal lead.

"Saturday I'll surely be 100 percent. (Friday) I will be able to train normally without any limitations," said Cech, who insisted the Greek blunder was well and truly behind him.

"I don't look back - the main thing is we won the match," he added.

Both Rosicky and Cech were due to face a fitness test on Friday to determine whether they will be fit or not.

Since the Czech Republic split from Slovakia to form an independent country, they have lost every time they have played away to Poland.

However, the last meeting between the sides was a Czech victory in Prague in a World Cup qualifier three years ago.


AFP

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