He should not have problems to seal his ticket to the round of 16 as group leader, but surely Luis Enrique’s coaching staff will be aware of the Duel that from 6:00 p.m. faces Poland and Slovakia this Monday in Saint Petersburg, its next and theoretically affordable rivals. The lights point to the striker Robert Lewandowski, the offensive weapon of his country, favorite in this duel against a Central European neighbor who qualified for the great continental tournament of teams through the play-offs, where he beat Northern Ireland.
The Poles consider that victory is a must at the start of their fourth consecutive European Championship if they want to have the option of qualifying and repeating the remarkable performance of 2016, when they reached the quarter-finals and lost on penalties to Portugal, ultimately champion. With the difficulty of the duel in the warm Seville against Spain on the horizon, the three points against an opponent in the disguise of ‘Cinderella’ are necessary. Lewandowski, endorsed by his 66 goals in 119 games for his country, is the key man in a team in which Portugal’s Paulo Sousa, appointed coach in January, has not had the desired time to convey his ideas to the players.
Szczesny, Bereszynski, Glik, Bednarek, Jozwiak, Krychowiak, Moder, Puchacz, Klich, Zielinski, and Lewandowski.
Dubravka, Pekarik, Satka, Skriniar, Hubocan, Kucka, Hromada, Haraslin, Hamsik, Mak and Duda.
Ovidiu Hategan (Romania).
18:00 h. St. Petersburg.
The loss due to injury of strikers Piatek (Hertha from Berlin) and Milik (Olympique from Marseille), increases the responsibility in attack to the Bayern striker, who was full after winning the Golden Boot thanks to his historic 41 goals in the Bundesliga. They are two very sensitive casualties, since thanks to their forwards the Poles went through the qualifying phase with eight wins, one draw and one defeat in the group with Austria, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Israel and Latvia. Sousa also relies on Szczesny’s seniority, an insurance under the sticks at Juventus, and in the magic in the creation of Zielinski, an attacking midfielder of a good level in Naples.
Slovakia faces its third final phase in a major tournament and is eager to get through the group stage for the third time, as in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and in the last European Championship, in which Germany pushed it out of the way in the round of 16. They are considered one of the weakest teams at this European Championship, and even more so because their captain Marek Hamsik, who made his country’s debut against Poland in February 2007, has suffered from muscle problems in recent weeks. But there is great positive energy in Stefan Tarkovic’s team.
«The mental aspect, the concentration, will be key. We have to find gaps against an opponent who defends well with a medium-low block. They are very strong in the transition, very direct, they do not spend a lot of energy in construction and they are also very strong in set pieces, “said Sousa, the third foreign coach in the history of Poland after the Hungarian Gyula Biro ( 1924) and the Dutch Leo Beenhakker (2006-2009). “We have worked hard to get here and it is a great challenge for us. Poland is ahead in the FIFA rankings, but I think the squads are even. A good start to the finals is important, but we lost the first match in France in 2016 against Wales, and we still managed to qualify, ”Tarkovic underlined by his counterpart.