WARSAW -- Three thoughts on Poland's 1-1 tie against Russia in Euro 2012, which left the Russians in first place in Group A (4 points), followed by the Czech Republic (3), Poland (2) and Greece (1). All four teams still have a chance to advance to the quarterfinals:
• Kuba Blaszczykowski is a Polish national hero. Things were looking dire for co-host Poland in Euro 2012, with Russia holding a 1-0 lead and starting to dominate possession. But the Borussia Dortmund winger created something out of nothing, taking on the Russian defense with an inspired individual effort and hitting a belter of an equalizer from distance in the second half.
Blaszczykowski's wonderstrike caused the National Stadium to erupt after the nervous tension that had resulted from Alan Dzagoev's first-half goal, and it was a sign that the Poles hadn't lost their nerve after failing to convert numerous chances in the early part of the game.
Now Poland will be in control of its own destiny when it comes to advancing from the group. A win against the Czech Republic on Saturday in Wroclaw would be enough to put the Poles in the quarterfinals.
• The Russian-Polish tension here is overwhelming. This game always figured to be a flashpoint given the bitter history between these two countries, and that's exactly what happened on Tuesday. More than 50 arrests were made after clashes before the game, in which Warsaw police used plastic bullets, auditory grenades and water canonsin an attempt to preserve order in the streets. Inside the stadium, the Russian fan section unfurled a giant banner with a sword-wielding warrior that read THIS IS RUSSIA (see below).
It was a provocative display that struck many as outrageous considering Russia's history with Poland during the 20th century. Revealingly, the banner was in English, suggesting that the Russians were attempting to make a nationalist statement to the wider world. Remember, World Cup 2018 in Russia is only six years away.
• Dzagoev is a budding star. The 21-year-old CSKA Moscow forward scored on a clinical set-piece header to take the lead in the first half and became the first player in Euro 2012 to have three goals. Much like teammate Andrey Arshavin at Euro 2008, Dzagoev may be the breakout player of the tournament and seal a move to a bigger club, in part because of his surpassing talent and in part because he only has six months left on his deal with CSKA.
Dzagoev is mature beyond his years when it comes to his understanding of positioning and movement, to say nothing of his ruthless finishing touch in the box. (Though he did show an immature side earning a yellow card for needless dissent.) A native of Beslan, Ossetia, Dzagoev was developed at the famous Konoplev soccer academy, which was partially funded by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Any chance we'll be seeing Dzagoev in blue before long?