A lot to play for, a lot to miss out on — Poland have their backs against the wall on Wednesday night when they face group leaders Sweden in the final matchday of the group stages of Euro 2020.
A loss to Slovakia and a draw against Spain have led to Poland being last in the group, however, a victory against Sweden could save their campaign while the Swedes will also have to avoid a loss as they could be out of the Top 2 if they fail to do so.
BRILLIANT TILL NOW, CAN SPAIN GO PAST THE LAST HURDLE?
At the start of their campaign, most critics were certain that Spain and Poland would progress through the group, and while that might still happen, Sweden have held their own in Group E and topped the group after they secured a victory against Slovakia.
The equation for Sweden could not be simpler as they only have to avoid a loss to confirm a place in the Round of 16 of the tournament, however, that is easier said than done.
While the group table portrays Sweden to be the best in the group, the truth could not be any further from it. They were lucky to get away with a draw against Spain as Janne Andersson’s men averaged only 25% possession of the ball while they also had zero shots on target. The sheer brilliance of Robin Olsen ensured a point for the Swedes as their marquee players, namely Alexander Isak, Emile Forsberg, and Victor Lindelof, were nowhere to be seen.
Their second game against Slovakia saw them pick up their first victory in this year’s tournament, however, a penalty was the difference-maker. Although they did manage to get 4 shots on target, Slovakia averaged higher possession, and the Swedes looked really nervous towards the end of the game.
Thus, facing a team like Poland, who have an incredible striker in Lewandowksi, will be a different challenge altogether, but this is where their big names will have to step up and show some courage while they go forward. Sweden have kept 2 clean sheets but needs to ensure that they score on the day as it is highly unlikely that they will let in 2 goals. It is going to be a hard battle but Sweden needs to come through it and if the last 2 games have been any evidence, they do have the capability to hang into games and get the result they want.
Sweden have a fully fit squad going into the game on Wednesday night and they will be hoping to have Mattias Svanberg and Dejan Kulusevski back into the game after the duo were cleared for selection earlier this week as they came back from self-isolation due to a covid situation.
Player to watch out for:
Robin Olsen was the hero for the Swedes in both games, and the impetus will continue to be on him as Poland will try to break through the defence and score, and the 31-year-old will have to save his nation from losing on Wednesday night.
NOW OR NEVER FOR POLAND:
An awful start against Slovakia in the first game of the tournament meant that Poland were playing for their lives from the second game itself and it is a wonder how they still have their destiny in their own hands. While they were the better side against Slovakia, a red card meant that they were always going to be susceptible to conceding chances and they eventually lost the game.
While not all hope was lost when they faced Spain, they were a little slow to join the game as Spain dominated all parts of the field for the first half an hour. Poland got back into the game in the second half as their talisman in Robert Lewandowski showed up to give his nation a fighting chance in the third and last match of the group stage.
Paulo Sousa was adamant that his team deserved more from both games of the tournament, however, this is the beauty of a knockout tournament as you do not necessarily need to be the better team to win the games. Managing a game is more important than outscoring the opposition, and Poland needs to learn this lesson before they face Sweden on Wednesday night.
Although they have the likes of Jan Bednarek and Kamil Glik in the defence, they need to avoid unforced errors be more comfortable in possession. Wojciech Szczesny needs to be a more commanding figure at the back, and it feels like the own goal he conceded in the first game against Slovakia has affected him in a negative manner. However, Szczesny will be key in this game as he can redeem himself by not letting anything past him and hoping that his side produces the magic on the other end to ensure a place in the Round of 16 for the Poles.
Grzegorz Krychowiak will be back for the game against Sweden on Wednesday after he missed the game against Spain as he was sent off in the opening game of the tournament. Apart from that, Poland will have a fully fit squad as they look to nail down a place in the last 16 of the tournament.
Player to watch out for:
Robert Lewandowski will have all eyes set on him as he is the sole hope for Poland to score a goal on Wednesday. He made sure that his side comes away with a point against Spain but he will have to take his performances to a higher level against Sweden as it is a do or die situation and with the possibility that this could be his last Euros, Lewandowski will be aiming to go deeper into the tournament.
Sweden Predicted XI vs Poland: Robin Olsen; Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Marcus Danielsson, Ludwig Augustinsson; Sebastian Larsson, Kristoffer Olsson, Albin Ekdal, Emil Forsberg; Marcus Berg, Alexander Isak.
Poland Predicted XI vs Sweden: Wojciech Szczesny; Bartosz Bereszynski, Kamil Glik, Jan Bednarek; Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kamil Jozwiak, Tymoteusz Puchaz, Mateusz Klich; Karol Swiderski, Piotr Zielinski; Robert Lewandowski.