Poland fans endured a chaotic start to Euro 2012, as joy gave way to despair and finally relief.
Everything appeared to be going swimmingly as Robert Lewandowski put the co-hosts ahead against Greece, for whom Sokratis Papastathopoulos was then harshly sent off.
However, after Dimitris Salpingidis fired the Greeks level, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny received his marching orders for bringing down the same player when he was through on goal.
Replacement keeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved Giorgos Karagounis’ spot-kick, but the Poles were unable to find a winner and had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Despite the setback, boss Franciszek Smuda was able to put a positive spin on the result.
“We have two matches to go and should not dwell on this but just focus on the next one and winning it,” he told reporters.
Fortunately for the manager, his team are likely to be fired up for the visit of arch-rivals Russia, with a long history of tensions between the two nations.
Poland are available at 11/5 to beat Dick Advocaat’s team, though this success could ultimately hinge on the sharpness of Borussia Dortmund pairing Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Lewandowski has scored in Poland’s last two games and is priced at 11/2 to grab the opener, something he has done in five of the last seven matches in which he has scored for the co-hosts.
Blaszczykowski, meanwhile, hit the net when they last met Russia and as the team’s main penalty taker, is one to watch for an anytime goal at 13/4, which translates to winnings of £106.25 for anyone using bwin’s free £25 bet.
The 26-year-old certainly looks a better prospect than striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who had a stinker against the Czech Republic, setting a new Euros record with seven shots off target.
Anyone fancying Blaszczykowski to score more than the Zenit St Petersburg star this Tuesday can back exactly that, with odds of 4/1 available on the Pole outshining him.
Poland will be eager to keep things tight in the opening exchanges, though, and avoid the kind of defensive lapses that proved to be the downfall of the Czechs.
Backing the co-hosts to win 1-0 at 7/1 looks a decent long punt, given that three of the last four victories enjoyed by Smuda’s side have come by that scoreline.
Failing this, Smuda will know that a draw, which is priced at 23/10, would keep Poland’s destiny in their own hands, with the potential for a 0-0 stalemate in Warsaw.
Poland have experience of doing exactly this after holding Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal at bay in a friendly back in February, making odds of 27/4 on a repeat an interesting prospect.
But if, like me, you fancy the Russians to be stopped in their tracks, perhaps the safest play is to back Poland to avoid defeat at a reasonable 31/50.
Recommended bet: Poland to avoid defeat against Russia @ 31/50
Long shot: Jakub Blaszczykowski to score at any time @ 13/4
Outside punt: Poland to win 1-0 @ 7/1
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