Wroclaw, the capital city of western Poland, is a sleepy kind of place, a stitching together of river-bound peninsulas that has the feel in its more picturesque quarters of a pocket-sized Prague. Certainly the steeply-banked Municipal Stadium, the newly built 40,000-capacity home to Slask Wroclaw, will not have experienced anything like the noise that will greet Friday night's opening day Group A match between Russia and the Czech Republic, a notable eastern European rivalry rejoined in a city that is just 130 miles from the Czech capital.
Both teams are engaged in a period of cautious reconstruction – propped up by some ageing star names – but both are also expected to escape the group, notwithstanding the random element of host nation inspiration for the Poles. For Dick Advocaat, who has managed five national teams and will be stepping down from his post with Russia after this tournament, it has even been necessary to dampen expectations after a qualifying campaign marked by an attacking style of play. Russia topped their group for the first time and were buoyed further by a recent 3-0 friendly defeat of Italy.
"We won 3-0 against Italy, and it wasn't flattering – it gives you a lot of confidence," Advocaat said, showing himself to be fluently laconic in at least three languages ahead of Russia's final training session. "This will be a totally different game against a totally different opponent. We did an excellent qualification with a very attractive way of playing. Like all 15 other countries we are very confident to start."
Asked whether he would continue to set up his team in the attacking 4-3-3 formation that has characterised their best displays, Advocaat struck a note of wily caution. "I have to be honest, it is all about results at this stage. But we can't change our way of playing – a more attacking open style. You just have to be aware of the opponent."
Also of the condition of his own players; this is an ageing team, convalescing from a particularly arduous Russian season. Advocaat insisted: "It's not how old you are, it's how good you are" but admitted Russia have been training only once a day. Thursday's session revealed little more than Andrey Arshavin's rather drastic new short back and sides, along with plenty of emphasis on short passing drills as befits a possession-based lineup.
Russia at least have no fitness problems, with the impressive goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev passed fit. For the Czechs there is still some concern over Milan Baros's muscle strain. Occasionally maligned in English football, Baros has 41 international goals and will lead the line alone should he recover as expected. The Czech spine is completed by further familiar faces: Petr Cech remains the dominant star, and Tomas Rosicky has recovered from calf injury and will act as playmaker in a team bolstered by energetic additions from a successful Viktoria Plzen team. Much is expected of the midfielder Petr Jiracek, who will patrol the central areas in a revolving five-man midfield. David Limbersky is expected to provide some thrust from the left.
There will also be an English presence here. Howard Webb and his four-man Premier League team will officiate. Webb was roundly – and perhaps a little bizarrely – pilloried by the Dutch media after the World Cup final in South Africa. Advocaat, of course, was generous in his praise: "Webb is one of the best referees in the world. He was unlucky in the World Cup final, but he's the top referee in England and we are very happy to have him."