Russia plays Greece. The Czech Republic plays Poland. All four are still eligible to advance, or be eliminated. We don’t quite need the abacus yet, as there are no dangers of a three-way tiebreaker. Here are the advancement scenarios.
Russia [4pts] A win or a draw advances Russia to the knockout stages. Russia wins the group with a win or a draw with a Poland win/draw. They can also lose and still go through if Poland draws with the Czechs.
Czech Republic [3pts] The Czechs advance with a win or a draw against Poland with a Russia result. A win and a Russia loss would win them the group.
Poland [2pts] The Poles must win to advance. If Greece wins, they win the group. Otherwise, they advance as runners up.
Greece [1pt] If Greece beats Russia, they advance to the knockout round. If Poland or the Czech Republic win, Greece qualifies as the runner up. If Poland the Czech Republic draw, Greece wins the group.
Russia vs. Greece: The Russians were blunted against Poland, largely because the Poles played three holding midfielders in front of their back four (where the Russians had so much space against the Czechs) and stayed deep enough to close off the counterattacks. That plan should suit the Greeks, who play three holding midfielders and lie deep naturally. The trouble is their defending has been suspect, not helped by Papadopolous being out for the tournament. They have had particular trouble covering the opponent’s right flank.
Czech Republic vs. Poland: The Czechs reshuffled their midfield and looked far better against Greece. They brought in Hubschman, a more natural defensive midfielder, and moved Jiracek to the right. Their defense was sounder and their linkup play was more fluid. Playing Greece and not Russia was also a factor. Much may depend on the health of key midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who was taken off with an achilles injury halfway through the Greece match and has not trained since.
Poland faces a dilemma whether to play the more expansive midfield they used against Greece or the deadening one that thwarted the Russians. Needing an outright win, the former might be a better choice. Star striker Robert Lewandowski is a world-class finisher, but he needs better service and chances for him to convert. He had chances against Greece, but against Russia he was largely isolated.
Prediction: Russia beats Greece to win the group. Poland eeks out a win against the Czech Republic to advance as the runner up.
[Photo via Getty]