Coach Franciszek Smuda cannot afford another slip-up following Poland's opening draw against Greece
The meeting between Poland and Russia in Warsaw on Tuesday has been billed in some Polish newspapers as the Battle of the Vistula part two, a reference to a famous Polish victory over a stronger Bolshevik army in 1920. The game also falls on Russia Day and rumours that visiting supporters are planning to march en masse from the city centre to the stadium have created concerns that violent clashes could overshadow the game.
Clashes among fans have already taken a little of the shine off Russia's impressing opening day victory over the Czech Republic but Dick Advocaat was able to wave away questions on the behaviour of Russian supporters, as well as allegations of racist attitudes, when the national team's press officer ruled out any political questions before the pre-match press conference.
"We are here just to talk about football," was the instruction beforehand, and though Advocaat was asked with varying degrees of ingenuity for his thoughts on what had happened at the weekend and what might happen on Tuesday, he kept his lips sealed and simply pointed to his media advisor.
The Poland coach, Franciszek Smuda, was similarly unwilling to digress from football issues for long, though at least he agreed that the atmosphere building up around the game threatened to be unhealthy. "We cannot think about what people are saying, what supporters will do, or what we read in the papers," he said.
"That is not our job. I do not say it is none of our business exactly, because it might be, but we cannot afford not to focus on the game. There might be a certain tension around this fixture but it is not the time or place at this time to become obsessed with history and politics. We have to keep separate from that, our players are watching music channels not news programmes. We are playing a great team and we have to prepare our tactics."
Unsurprisingly the two managers preferred to concentrate on the football. The world has become a little bit more aware that Russia have a great team since the emphatic win over the Czechs, though Advocaat dismissed suggestions that they were now favourites to win the tournament. "We have a good team, and we have made a good start, but that is all it is, a start," the Russia coach said of the opening 4-1 win over the Czech Republic. "We haven't won anything yet, just played one game. It's very optimistic to talk about winning the title at this stage. Of course it was important to win the first game but we'll see what happens if we have our nine points at the end of the group stage.
"We showed against the Czech Republic that we have the ability to make life difficult for opponents but it is in adversity that the true character of a team comes out. You can only tell what sort of a chance you have when things start going against you, so far we have had nothing to complain about. There's no reason to make big changes for the next game though and I am happy that I have 23 highly motivated players."
Smuda is under a certain amount of pressure after Poland let a good start slip away against Greece and he has come in for a lot of criticism for not making any substitutions to change the game late on, especially as his players seemed to be wilting in the heat under a closed roof. He made one enforced change when Wojciech Szczesny was dismissed but otherwise kept to his starting lineup. "Those decisions are mine alone," he said. "There is not a fitness problem with my team. I can guarantee we will compete for 90 minutes at a good pace. We have endurance."
The Poland coach denied that the historical circumstances surrounding the game on Tuesday meant his players would be under extra pressure. "No, we are under pressure because we need a result against a strong team," he said. "There was much more pressure in the first game against Greece. We felt we had to do well there, we were afraid we might let the country down by losing at home in the opening game."
At least the roof will be open for the Russia game, even if it may not be possible to put a lid on the passions of the rival sets of supporters. Advocaat actually had a view on that. The roof, that is, not the passions and politics of the supporters. "Players like playing with an open roof," he revealed, fairly sure he was on a safe subject. "It gives you more air."