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Poland psyched up for Czech test

Coach Franciszek Smuda said co-hosts Poland have total focus on the job at hand on the eve of their decisive Group A encounter with the Czech Republic, who are intent on causing an upset.

Franciszek Smuda has the quarter-finals in sight
Franciszek Smuda has the quarter-finals in sight ©Getty Images

The country may have got carried away after Poland's valiant draw against Russia, but coach Franciszek Smuda believes his players have not been swept up in the wave of euphoria ahead of their decisive encounter with the Czech Republic.

Jakub Błaszczykowski's spectacular equaliser in Warsaw on Tuesday earned Smuda's men a point and boosted the feel-good factor among Polish fans, who have yet to see their country win a game at a UEFA European Championship. However, knowing they need a historic victory to reach the knockout stages, Smuda is confident his players have not taken their eyes off the prize.

"I think this euphoria, these positive emotions, were kept in check," said the 63-year-old. "We tried to maintain our composure, and I feel that the team is as focused as they were before the Russia game. Each match is extremely important, but probably this is the most important match of my life, and for the whole team. We simply have to remain calm. Our team doesn't feel under a lot of pressure though. There is pressure, but it's not as high as before the game against Greece."

What is at stake at the Municipal Stadium Wroclaw might not be causing him sleepless nights, but the Poland coach is certainly fretting over his starting XI. "If we had no problems with injuries, I would really like to use the same lineup as we had against Russia," said Smuda, who named midfielders Eugen Polanski and Dariusz Dudka as well as centre-back Damien Perquis as his primary concerns. A further conundrum is who plays in goal, with Wojciech Szczęsny vying with Przemysław Tytoń for the position after serving a one-match ban for his red card in the opening game. "It definitely won't be me," joked Smuda when asked who would be wearing the gloves. "It'll be whoever's between the posts."

Smuda's opposite number, Michal Bílek, will be relieved that he can call on his undisputed No1, Petr Čech, who trained at full tilt on Friday evening having recovered from a shoulder problem. However, Tomáš Rosický's Achilles injury, which limited him to 45 minutes of the 2-1 win against Greece, meant the Czech captain watched his team-mates going through their final paces, and he faces a fitness test on Saturday morning. "I hope Tomáš will play, but we have alternatives," said Bílek. Daniel Kolář is likely to be drafted in if Rosický does not make it, and the Czechs clearly have no qualms about upsetting the Polish fans who have supported them in their previous two group games in Wroclaw.

"We are enjoying ourselves in Poland, and the Polish fans have supported us, but now it's us or them, and we'll do our utmost to achieve our objective," said Bílek, whose team are certain to progress with a win, though a point may suffice. "Players like Błaszczykowski and Lewandowski are top-class, and we'll have to pay attention. We respect our opponents, but we're not scared. We showed our class in our second match, and want to go through. We don't want to say goodbye to the EURO just yet."