Poland not scared ahead of match against Russia

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) -Russia's impressive start at the European Championship hasn't scared off co-host Poland.

The Russians poured on the attack against the Czech Republic in their opening Group A match, winning 4-1, while Poland was held to a 1-1 draw by Greece.

"Russia is the favorite of the group, there's no doubt," Poland defender Lukasz Piszczek said Sunday, two days before the Poles take on Russia in Warsaw. "They showed why in the opener against the Czechs, but we're not going to fold.

"The whole (Russian) team is strong, but we are playing at home. ... We aren't afraid of the Russians."

Poland came out strong against Greece, controlling the midfield and creating a host of solid scoring opportunities in the first half. But the Poles faded after the break, and only salvaged the draw with a penalty stop from reserve goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton after No. 1 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off.

Since that opening match, Poland's players and coaching staff have adopted a mantra: The key to Poland's success against Russia will be to keep up the pace and style the Poles showed in the opening 45 minutes against Greece.

"We know that if we play like we did in the first half against Greece then we'll be able to stand up to Russia," Piszczek said.

To do that, Poland coach Franciszek Smuda may have to do something he didn't against Greece - turn to his bench to bring on fresh legs.

Smuda, who doesn't enjoy the depth that Russia counterpart Dick Avocaat does, didn't rule out game-time substitutions but said he doesn't plan on any major shakeup in his starting lineup.

"There won't be many changes, maybe one," Smuda said. "On Tuesday, everyone will be in good form. Russia has a lot of experienced players, but we don't fear them. Why should we? Besides, we're playing at home."

The Poland coach could bring on veteran defensive midfielder Dariusz Dudka to boost to the back line against a tough Russian attack, or he could use Kamil Grosicki or Adrian Mierzejewski in the midfield, although both players lack experience at major tournaments.

Whoever takes the field for Poland, the players are aware just how much this match means for their countrymen, and not only because of the sporting stakes. Warsaw and Moscow have a long history of troubled relations, including four decades of Soviet Union dominance under communism that was overthrown in Poland in 1989.

"We also know what sort of match this is for the fans. It is clear that it is very important to them," Grosicki said. "It is the sort of match - with the Germans or the Russians - where you need to leave, as they say, your heart and soul on the pitch."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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