Note to Poland manager Adam Nawalka: Don’t rest Jakub Blaszczykowski again
Poland were lucky here this afternoon. Were Ukraine not so wasteful the Poles could have been three down at half time. Manager Adam Nawalka brought the rested Jakub Blaszczykowski onto the field after the break and the lively playmaker immediately changed the game.
Blaszczykowski scored with a delightful roll to open up his body and slip past the Ukraine goalkeeper int he box. The ease of which he scored exposed just how disappointing Robert Lewandowski had been in front of goal int he first half.
Blaszczykowski was one of Poland’s key men at Euro 2012 and is here as well. He has been involved in each of their last four goals (2 goals, 2 assists) and must start in their last-16 clash.
Wasteful Ukraine is why they’re going home
Ukraine created 15 chances against Northern Ireland last week. Four hit the target, which in part if why they lost 2-0 to Euro 2016’s surprise team of the tournament. In their first game against Germany (2-0 to the world champions) Ukraine managed just three efforts on goal.
Today the Euro 2012 co-hosts were equally as wasteful against a Poland side who really were left wanting at the back. Twice was Andriy Yarmolenko denied in the opening half — first by a block and then by his own wastefulness as the winger fired wide after encroaching into the box. That’s surprising considering his recent record against the Poles.
But Yavhen Konoplyanka was guilty of the worst blunder when he fluffed a square ball eight yards out from goal. Poland’s last-16 opponents Switzerland shouldn’t be too concerned.
0-0 draw at half time is the best bet of the tournament
This game was the 15th of 30 to be goalless at half time in Euro 2016. That’s a quite ridiculous state considering the compelling attacking play most sides have deployed so far. Few teams — Slovakia, Iceland and Albania maybe — have come out purely to defend their goal. And yet 0-0 draws at the break has become a frequent occurrence.
Poland offered nothing in the first half in Marseille. Ukraine would have scored with more clinical finishing. Expect more of this in the knockout stages.
It’s still not happening for Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski enjoyed a superb season at Bayern Munich. He top scored in the Bundesliga with 30 goals, netted nine times in the Champions League and 13 goals during Euro 2016 qualifying. Lewandowski headed into this tournament as one of the favourites to win the Golden Boot. Much of Poland’s play runs through the striker, with forward partner Arkadiusz Milik supporting him.
But it just hasn’t clicked for Lewandowski yet. He clipped over a golden opportunity just three minutes into this match and struggled to get behind the Ukraine defence for the rest of the game.
And the Stupid Booking of the Game award goes to…
Bartosz Kapustka claims the stupid award for getting booked — and therefore suspended for Poland’s next game — when kicking Yarmolenko’s heels early in the second half. Yarmolenko had his back to goal and was miles away from Poland’s are when Kapustka left his studs in. It was a silly challenge at the best of times but his second yellow of the tournament now means Kapustka will miss a last-16 clash with Switzerland.
He was subbed off for Kamil Grosicki shortly after the incident. Now, if Grosicki plays a blinder in Poland’s next clash then Kapustka may lose his place in the XI. Silly boy.