Poland vs. Russia Euro 2012: 2 Former Soviet Nations Battle for Progress

Michael KohCorrespondent IIIJune 12, 2012

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 12:  Jakub Blaszczykowski of Poland tackles Aleksandr Kerzhakov of Russia during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Poland and Russia at The National Stadium on June 12, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Russia played Poland in a match of historical significance. June 12 is Russian Independence Day, where Russia gained independence from the Soviet Union, as well as when the Soviet bloc was dismantled.

Incidents between Polish and Russian fans were reported, adding to the already tense atmosphere between the two nations. 

As per Reuters.com: 

Some Poles displayed a banner saying, "Polish President murdered in Russia," referring to a plane crash in Russia two years ago that killed Poland's president and 95 others.

Violence erupted as thousands of Russian fans, flanked by riot police, marched through the city and started crossing its Vistula river on the way to the stadium.

Groups of fans began to provoke each by yelling insults then small groups started to scuffle. Reuters witnesses saw one man hit on the head by an iron bar thrown through the air.

"You could see on both the Polish and the Russian sides that it was organized groups of hooligans, quite small groups," said Polish fan Maciej Kowalski.

Although fan violence halted the march to the National Stadium, the game started on time in Warsaw.

The last time these two met, the friendly match ended a 2-2 draw on August 22, 2007. 


WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 12:  Jakub Blaszczykowski of Poland scores their first goal during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Poland and Russia at The National Stadium on June 12, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (GER)


Russia (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Malafeev
Defense: Anyukov, Ignashvich, Zhirkov, Berezutski
Midfield: Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov
Attack: Dzagoev, Arshavin, Kerzhakov 
Substitutes: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Glushakov, Sernshov, Pavlyuchenko, Pogrebnyak 


Poland (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Tyton
Defense: Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek
Midfield: Dudka, Polanski, Obraniak, Murawski, Blaszczykowski
Attack: Lewandowski
Substitutes: Sandomierski, Wojtkowlak, Kaminski, Wawrzyniak, Matuszczyk, Rybus, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grisicki, Soblech, Brozek


First Half:

Poland started the match on the front foot, attacking the Russian goal within the first 10 minutes. Robert Lewandowski recorded an attempt on goal but was unable to convert. He had another chance in the 11th minute but was again too hasty and placed the shot wide of the goal.

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 12:  Robert Lewandowski of Poland clashes with Igor Denisov of Russia during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Poland and Russia at The National Stadium on June 12, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Eugen Polanski was offsides during the 17th minute from a good organization by the Russian back four. The timing of the pass was a bit delayed. On the other side, Aleksandr Kerzhakov missed the target, but was kicked in the face by a Polish defender. The referee allowed play to go on, knowing that if a penalty had been given, pandemonium would ensue within the stands.

Incredible discipline by the Russian defense was displayed as they were able to keep the Polish attack at bay. Russia's Roman Shirokov tried to get ahead of a cross for Poland's Marcin Wasilewski. He missed, but nothing came of it. In the end, Wasilewski is called for a foul on Yuri Zhirkov. 

Russian Aleksandr Kerzhakov missed the target in the 28th minute. Alan Dzagoev tried to capitalize on the three-man Polish defense, but his shot was blocked and Poland was able to breathe again.

Zhirkov was impeded by Wasilewski and was rewarded a free kick.

Russia scored in 36th minute—Poland was caught flat-footed by Arshavin's free kick and Dzagoev was able to score with a header as he ran into the box unmarked. 

After the restart, Lewandowski found himself in the box and took a shot, but Malafeev was able to parry. The Russian defense hoofed the ball out into the Polish half. 

Wasilewski made a nice interception to halt the Russian attack in the 42nd minute—he was at full stretch to kick the low cross out for a corner. Arshavin's corner was struck by Zhirkov, but was off-target. 

Poland, as the first half came to a close, seemed to have eased off the pressure, allowing Russia—especially Denisov—room to maneuver around the pitch. In the 45th minute of play, Dzagoev was deemed to have fouled Dudka as he went to attack the ball in the box after a wonderfully crafted counterattack.


First Half Stats

Poland / Russia
Goals: 0 / 1
Possession: 43% / 57%
Goal Attempts: 5 / 6
On Target: 3 / 2
Off Target: 2 / 4
Free Kicks: 12 / 9
Corners: 2 / 3
Offsides: 1 / 1
Fouls: 8 / 11
Saves 0 / 3 


Second Half:

The second half started extremely brightly for both sides, with Poland almost scoring from a one-on-one against Malafeev by Lewandowski. Ludovic Obraniak was able to thread some killer passes as Russia's Igor Denisov was able to cover his ground well, breaking up the attack and driving some Russian counterattacks. 

Andrey Arshavin missed the target as he bounded down the left-hand side. His shot (or cross) rolled across the face of goal for a throw in. Poland was unable to cope with Arshavin's scurrying runs as they let him center passes time and time again, but they were able to win headers and block shots.

Their persistence allowed the Polish to counterattack and for Blaszczykowski to cut inside and take a shot from just outside the box, which ended up in the far upper corner, out of Malafeev's reach. 

Denisov and Lewandowski were booked by the referee after a late challenge and retaliation.

Poland tried to calm the game down after a fiery 15 minutes of play. With the score at 1-1, the Poles seemed content with counterattacking the out-of-position Russians.

Russia tried time and time again to play through balls between the Polish defenders, but the defense was up to the challenge, breaking up play.

Tyton was called on to make a fantastic save against Dzagoev in the 66th minute. On the other side, Malafeev was able to make a great save against the Poles. 

Arshavin was clearly impeded after a fantastic through ball to let him by the defenders, but for some reason, Referee Stark let play go on. 

Roman Pavelyuchenko came on for Aleksandr Kerzhakov in the 71st minute. 

Poland countered, but the shot was too high.

Dariusz Dudka came off for Adrian Mierzejewski in the 73rd minute for Poland.

Not many calls were in favor for the Russians. They also hadn't pressed as much as they did in the first half, giving the Polish midfielders space to work with. 

The Poles gained confidence as the game clock ticked towards 90 minutes, becoming more and more threatening in their counterattack. 

Eugen Polanski was off for Adam Matuszczyk in the 84th minute after crashing into Yuri Zhirkov five minutes earlier in the match. 

In the final minutes of the match, the game moved from attacking to two sides looking for the perfect counterattack, but with Russia holding on to the ball and playing short passes, Poland's possession was virtually limited to two to three touches before losing the ball. 

Poland substituted Ludovic Obraniak for Pawel Brozek in the 92nd minute. 

The game ended 1-1, perhaps for the best for players and fans. 


Full Time Stats

Poland / Russia
Goals: 1 / 1
Possession: 43% / 57%
Goal Attempts: 14 / 7
On Target: 7 / 3
Off Target: 7 / 4
Free Kicks: 18 / 15
Corners: 4 / 6
Offsides: 2 / 2
Fouls: 13 / 16
Saves 2 / 6


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