Euro 2016

Poland wary of Ukraine team playing for pride

Swansea and Poland custodian Lukasz Fabianski is standing by to step in between the sticks for his country if the regular first-choice Wojciech Szczesny fails to recover in time to face Ukraine.
Swansea and Poland custodian Lukasz Fabianski is standing by to step in between the sticks for his country if the regular first-choice Wojciech Szczesny fails to recover in time to face Ukraine.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

GROUP C

Poland v Ukraine
Singtel TV Ch141 & StarHub Ch221, 11.50pm

MARSEILLE • Poland, bidding to reach the European Championship knockout stages for the first time, will take nothing for granted when they face neighbours Ukraine in their final Group C match today.

Ukraine lost their first two games and cannot progress but Poland, second in the group standings after beating Northern Ireland 1-0 in their opening match, will reach the last 16 if they overcome their Euro 2012 co-hosts.

"Third matches tend to be different from the first two," Poland's assistant coach Hubert Malowiejski said. "I don't agree Ukraine play for nothing. They play for honour which is important for them.

"We are prepared for very dangerous opponents full of Shakhtar, Dynamo Kiev and Sevilla players."

Poland have not beaten Ukraine in their last five meetings, including two defeats in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, and they may be without first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny again due to a thigh injury.

"We don't know yet whether he will be fit for Ukraine or not. Our specialists work with him but nothing can be declared at the moment," Malowiejski said.

Lukasz Fabianski, who replaced Szczesny in Poland's 0-0 draw with Germany, will deputise again if the Poland No. 1 fails to recover, and he is confident about his team's organisation.

"Why are we playing better in defence than before? One of the reasons is that we have lot of information about the opponents from our information bank, and, thanks to that, we know better how to neutralise them," said the goalkeeper, who plays for Swansea.

Ukraine lost 0-2 to both Germany and Northern Ireland, the second defeat coming as a bitter disappointment against a team ranked six places below them.

"We understand the fans and we are very sorry," defender Olexandr Kucher said. "Now we have to win their respect back in the game against Poland.

"Of course, this match has no tournament meaning for us but we have to finally show some positive football and get a result. This is most important. We will fight for our prestige."

Ukraine midfielder Ruslan Rotan was at a loss to explain the poor performance against Northern Ireland.

"It is difficult to say now because we are full of emotions at the moment. The fact that we failed to progress to the round of 16 is definitely a bad result for us, as we wanted more. But we have to look forward," he said.

"We have to play the next game for our honour, for the honour of the whole country."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'Poland wary of Ukraine team playing for pride'. Print Edition | Subscribe