Poland – Group Record: 2-1, advances to quarters
As a host country, hopes are naturally high for this Polish squad. Up front they are led by midfielder Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski and striker Robert Lewandowski, who this season brought their league team, Borussia Dortmund, a German double (winning both the regular season and the league cup). Right back Lukasz Piszczek was also featured on that team so there is a core here with experience playing high-pressure, must-win games. They also have one of the world’s best young keepers in Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny. Poland is by no stretch the strongest team in the field, but they are balanced; they could be the surprise team to come out of the group stages.
Russia – Group Record: 3-0, advances to quarters
Between attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin and striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Russian side should have no trouble putting points on the board in a group that will have a notable lack of them. They could probably ride their offense alone to a perfect record, but to add insult to injury they’ve also got Igor Akinfeev minding goal and Aleksandr Anyukov lurking in the backfield. The Russians can do it all and after making it to the semis with almost the same team in 2008, they’re looking to at least repeat that success.
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