37 min Poland knock it about in midfield before Swiderski switches play with a long, raking pass over the Pucharz down the left. It’s beautiful, in his mind. Back in reality, the ball sails into touch.
35 min Forsberg, who’s picking his passes really nicely, finds Quaison, whose liveliness is making a big difference, and the latter’s cross is deflected behind. Poland get the corner away but can’t fashion a counter, Lewandowski running out of pitch down the right.
34 min Bereszynski humps a ball to the back stick where Lewandowski is up, winning a corner off Lustig who’s up with him. But Zielinski’s delivery is off and Sweden clear easily enough.
32 min Poland had an alright few minutes but now Sweden have a free-kick down the right, just outside the box…
30 min Spain have taken the lead against Slovakia, Morata with it. Not really, a shot hit the post, reared up, and Dubravka, facing his own net, patted it down into it like he was playing volleyball. That is absolutely absurd, hilarious, horrific behaviour.
29 min Swiderski crosses well from the right and Lewandowski is there in the middle, but Danielson again does well to clear before the ball reaches him. Poland are playing better now, but need to get Zielinski in the game because currently he’s doing nowt.
28 min It’s just occurred to me that I wagered a few pennies on Poland to win to nil, along with one or two others things in the other game. I think 82 seconds is a new PB for how quickly a bet has escaped my grasp.
26 min Drinks break for the players to “take on board fluids,” as my dictionary of Footballese tells me.
25 min “Now that you mention it,” emails Alexandre Chesnau, “the similarities between Poland-Sweden and Austria-Ukraine are uncanny. Both pit blue and yellow against white and red, and both feature an Eastern European side not turning up against a Western European team up for it and leading 1-0 early on (early being anything between 0 and 30 minutes). How strangely similar. Hope you have a good match (looks like Sweden have been replaced by Brazil overnight, so this should be good).”
This is already much better than that, and if you’d offered it me before kick-off then, as Ryan Giggs would say, I’d’ve took it.
24 min Lewandowski makes a decent run through the middle and away from Danielson, but Swiderski can’t find him with his through pass – there just wasn’t enough angle given the space between attacker and goalie.
22 min Spain let Morata take a penalty – it’s amazing, it really is. I will forever maintain that Diego Simeone signed him to ensure he was forever on a rolling boil.
21 min Of all the things I never expected to see, Long-throw Lindelof is right up there. He comes forward to hurl – ok, lob – one in, to no avail whatsoever.
20 min There’s a brief pause while Olsen receives treatment and we see those headers again. Lewandowski was maybe four yards out for the second one – I hate to say it, but it’s an absolutely atrocious miss.
17 min WHAT ON EARTH! Zielinski takes a terrific corner, swung out flat, and Lewandowski gets over the ball to meet it with a monstrous downwards header … only for it to bounce up and crack the bar! But it’s still there to be won and Lewandowski reaches it first … only this time he gets under it and hammers the bar! Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before! But what a miss!
16 min It’s Sweden dictating and Poland countering, the opposite of the game envisaged. I think the threat of Quaison, most particularly Quaison’s pace, is making a difference, but here comes Lewandowski outside the box, ramming a shot against Augustinsson’s shins to win a corner.
14 min AND SWEDEN SHOULD MAKE IT TWO! Augustinsson sticks Isak in behind and down the right, and Quaison is in the middle! A simple square ball and this is 2-0, but Isak takes an extra touch and Bereszynski slides in to intercept. The resultant corner comes to nowt.
13 min So far, this game is not unlike the Ukraine-Austria one from Monday in that one side has turned up and the other is performing a no-show.
12 min I feel guilty even typing this, but Alvaro Morata has missed a penalty for Spain; of course he has. Who on earth allowed him to take it, dearie me.
11 min The goal, apparently, came after 82 seconds, making it the second quickest in Euros history.
9 min This has been a terrific start from Sweden but a mistake by Danielson on halfway allows Swiderski to rob him. Naturally, Danielson hacks him down – he’ll be booked when play stops – but can Lewandowski gets away? No he cannot, he’s not got the gas, but it’s a start for his team.
8 min Sweden win a free-kick out on the left and Larsson gets set to swerve it in … but picks out Krychowiak, who heads clearish.
5 min You don’t want to be a goal down to any team, but on the list of all the teams to whom you don’t want to be a goal down, Sweden are near the top. Poland will be absolutely sick, but they’ve got plenty of time to unruin things.
Well! Isak challenges for a high cross on the edge of the box, controlling superbly on his chest, on the leap. This allows Forsberg to collect before Isak takes over again, and when the ball squirts back to Forsberg after a challenge, he nips around Bednarek to drill a finish into the far corner! What a start!
1 min “I don’t think anyone has ever described the Swedish national team better than journalist Charles Boehm,” emails Kári Tulinius…
“Just a quick point on your entry from 4.23,” says Gillis Holgersson. “It’s funny you should say that, since Swedes have taken issue with the first two games. Something of a national debate has raged, where some think we’ve been so boring it’s a national shame and others buy into the pragmatism. Personally, I don’t mind ‘boring’ football, but I mind bad football, and Sweden are yet to show what they can do. Between Forsberg, Olsson, Quaison and, yes, Isak, this team can play (a little bit). Let’s hope they show it today.”
Fair enough, I stand corrected (again1!).
Luke McLaughlin emails from the desk to draw my attention to the lovely lyricism of Paulo Sousa. “Pressure is part of football, he said. “We have to turn pressure into fun and fear into courage. Then it can work.”
The ability of footballers to withstand pressure is absolutely mind-boggling – something I wrote about last week, with regard to Bruno Fernandes.
Mary Waltz emails on the same subject. “I completely understand why Sweden adopt their defensive style of play. Considering the talent pool they have to draw from it is the most logical decision to make, and they consistently perform well in international tournaments. But as a viewer I look forward to their matches in the same way that I look forward to going to the dentist: at best nothing happens and pain is always a possibility.”
I think this is going to be a good one, and as I said below, I really enjoyed the Spain game. But with Isak and Kulusevski ready and Anthony Elanga coming through, they may have to change their method over the next bit.
“Many Swedes have a problem with how Sweden are playing,” says Cornelis Kunkele. “That is why we sitting in our garden instead of looking at the TV.”
I’m surprised to hear that, but then I happily watch terrible games between teams I don’t support.
On ITV, they’re talking about England. I know! But they are! I swear! Gary Neville reckons if England play Germany, they should go three at the back – I’m not sure I get that because my general rule is that when playing a better team, or a team who know a system better, if you match them up you usually lose. Ashley Cole, meanwhile, thinks England need to be brave and I agree with that. They might win a game playing defensively, but I can’t see them winning four like that; the better teams will expect to score against them while fearing their attackers. It makes more sense to try and keep the ball, and keep it down the other end, than to invite pressure on a defence that is decent but nothing special.
Dalian Atkinson. What an absolute tragedy.
I don’t think there are many playground veterans aged 40-50 who haven’t paid homage to this celebration.
I should also say that the final of the World Test Championship is fizzing to a close. Check that out here:
“Any explanation for why Lindelof has looked suspiciously secure so far?” asks Christpher Dale. “Is it his sitting deeper in a more reactive team, and so being exposed to fewer dangerous situations without support? Or the absence of McFred?”
The first thing to say is that Lindelof might not be a brilliant player but he’s without doubt a good one and over a long period has done really well against far better players than, say … Morata. Also, his main problem is that he’s not a great athlete, so can be outrun and outmuscled, but that’s less likely to happen in a less physical contest than you get in the Premeer League – especially, as you say, playing in a team who sit deep.
Tangentially, what a day of football this is. Let’s be real, there’s something not quite right about how few teams we’re actually losing, but there’s still plenty riding on the games because no team can afford to be passive even if all but two of the eight will probably go through.
“Count me as one of those who is looking forward to this game,” emails Matt Burtz, “mainly because I may or may not have wagered on Sweden to win the group prior to the tournament and would love to see them park the bus on the way to another 1-0 win via a penalty. It may not be pretty (okay, it’s definitely not pretty), but it’s worked thus far, and defensive solidity is nothing to shake a stick at. And as to the other game, it’s not as though Spain are scoring bucketfuls of goals themselves.”
I agree. I guess Spain are trying to play more expansively than Sweden, but teams can play however they like – they’re answerable only to their fans, and I doubt many Swedes have a problem with their style.
“Just a link to the goal that I (10 years old at the time) will always think of when Sweden are about to play Poland,” says Jesper Haglund.
Ah man, that takes me back. Great stuff.
Sweden also make one change, Robin Quaison replacing Marcus Berg in attack – Poland will have to think about the height of their line given the pace waiting to run beyond it. That’s a positive, enterprising change, though I was also hoping to enjoy some Dejan Kulusevski. Ultimately, though, Anderssen likes wide workers more than he likes wingers and he wants to top the group, so here we are.
Looking at those, I fancy Poland I must say. They make one change from the Spain game, Krychowiak returning from injury to replace Moder, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Zielinski, who will relish the opportunity to impose himself.
Sweden (a flat-pack 4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Danielson, Augistinsson, Larsson, Ekdal, Olsson, Forsberg; Quaison, Isak. Subs: Johnsson, Nordfeldt, Bengtsson, Berg, Svensson, Helander, Sema, Krafth, Claesson, Jansson, Kulusevski, Cajuste.
Poland (an unusual 3-2-4-1): Szczesny; Bereszynski, Glik, Bednarek; Krychowiak, Klich; Jozwiak, Swiderski, Zielinski, Puchacz; Lewandowski. Subs: Skorupski, Fabianski, Dawidowicz, Kedziora, Kozlowski, Linetty, Rybus, Placheta, Frankowski, Kownacki, Swierczak, Helik.
Email! “Now here’s an encounter I’m really not looking forward to,” writes Anis Aslaam. “Apart from England, Sweden have been one of those teams that have been painful to watch in this Euros: two banks of four with Alexander Isak the only goalscoring outlet. This team was built as a homage to Roy Hodgson-style football. Since Paulo Sousa’s football is anti-Hodgson, I’m hoping Poland open the floodgates first to provoke a Swedish reaction. However, I highly doubt that they’ll react considering they’ve qualified for the last 16. Despite that, if I was in Janne Anderson’s shoes, I’d try to get a result to meet the Czechs and not England or Belgium next.”
I actually really enjoyed Sweden’s performance against Spain – tournaments are a lot about those kinds of games – and I’ve really enjoyed Isak too. So let’s find out if he’s playing today…
Which of course brings us onto Stefan Effenberg, one of the most magnificent blighters this competition has ever seen. Just look at him!
I mentioned Don Hristo Stoichkov earlier on. Well, he was involved in one of my all-time favourite goals and perhaps the most iconic international goal of the 90s – but please feel free to let me know which one I’ve forgotten.
I’m sad to report it’s been a miserable day in off-pitch activity.
So apparently: it’s political to request that the ground use rainbow colouring, not political to refuse the request – perhaps to appease a political leader – and when Uefa use rainbow colouring, it’s not political. Makes perfect sense.
Who needs what:
Sweden are through and will top the group with a win, or if they draw and Slovakia do not beat Spain, or if Spain beat Slovakia by only one goal and score fewer goals than they do in the process.
Slovakia need a point to be certain of going through and will top the group if they win and Sweden do not.
Spain will go through if they beat Slovakia. They will also go through if they draw and Poland do not beat Sweden.
Poland must win.
One point from two games doesn’t say great things about Poland, but they were much improved from Slovakia to Spain and seem to fancy themselves to sort this.
George Best, Ryan Giggs, Barry Ferguson – the footballing world is replete with epochal legends whose achievements on the international stage were compromised by the quality of their countrymen. Unlike those three, though, Robert Lewandowski’s have been good enough to help him reach a succession of major competitions; the problem has been what happens to them – and him – when they get there.
For almost a decade now, world football’s best and purest centre-forward has struggled to impose himself on defences inferior to those he victimises on a bi-weekly basis. His international record of 67 goals in 121 games is still pretty good, but racking numbers in qualifiers is the absolute height of whatever.
It’s easy to defend Lewandowski because we know that the tournament football sample-size is too small to prove anything. But it’s also easy to criticise Lewandowski because we know the tournament football sample-size that’s too small to prove anything, proves that Gareth Bale, Hristo Stoichkov and Brian Laudrup are absolute dons.
Either way – and just like Troy Harvey and Irene Raymond – Lewandowski’s time is now: to stay in the competition, Poland must beat Sweden, and the onus is on him to make it happen. Well, easier said than done. Though Janne Andersson might be tempted to rest players, we know that whichever side he sends out will be solid, physical and drilled.
But the circumstances means he’ll probably stick with his first XI. If Sweden win tonight, they secure top spot in the group and meet Czech Republic next; if they draw and there’s a positive result in the Slovakia v Spain game, they finish second and meet Croatia next; and if they lose to end up third, they meet Belgium next.
All of which is to say that there’s a lot going on here. Oooh yeah!
Kick-off: 7pm local, 5pm BST