What is said in Sweden and the Czech Republic about the play-off bracket with the Poles?

As Poles, we can say that we were lucky in the draw. We are in the play-off ladder, which is quite manageable. We missed the strongest teams, in the first round we have one of the weaker rivals from the second places in the group stage, and we play at home in the eventual final. If we could defeat Russia, we would face Sweden or the Czech Republic. What are the moods on the other side of the barricade? What is said about a possible clash with Poland? Have both teams after Euro 2020 made a step forward? These questions were answered by experts – Grzegorz Rudynek and Piotr Piotrowicz.

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“Sweden did not want to meet Poland in the play-offs”

What is said in Sweden about the draw, about this play-off bracket?

Piotr Piotrowicz: Above all, the Swedes are pleased that they avoided teams such as Italy and Portugal in the bracket. Before the draw, the players of the national team and the selector himself swore that even a potential match with such giants did not cancel anything out, because in the play-offs to the previous championships they had already eliminated the Italians, but there was a loud sigh of relief. Before the clash with the Czech Republic you can see a lot of self-confidence, worse with this certainty before a possible final.

Exactly. A potential clash with Poland is already being discussed?

Yes, it was said before the draw that each team from the second basket would be good to draw, except for Poland. Actually, I should say, but not Lewandowski. Our team is not associated in Sweden with any crisis, weakness or criticism that we observe up close at home. For the Swedes, Poland is a solid and physically strong team that bases everything on the world star – Robert Lewandowski.

Sweden is afraid of away matches, because they are not doing well in their matches on the rivals’ pitch since Euro, and when they think about a match in places such as Moscow or Warsaw, where you never know, they shudder. Hence, since the last training camp of the national team, the Swedes have been doing their best to cancel the qualifiers for the play-offs in the play-offs. In fact, the whole country lives on it. Ibrahimović and important right-back Emil Krafth are suspended for the first leg, with seven players facing a suspension for the final. Apparently, the other teams in the play-offs, including Poland, have already been persuaded to reset all cards. UEFA has already submitted the idea to FIFA and is waiting for approval.

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In your opinion, Sweden has made a step further after Euro?

Individually, Sweden has certainly grown stronger. Young footballers like Alexander Isak and Dejan Kulusevski, for whom Euro was the first serious tournament, became the team leaders. The most experienced players who were said to not keep up with their younger teammates have passed away. They were replaced by younger ones who play in strong European leagues on a daily basis. Zlatan Ibrahimović has returned in his new role as an older brother, perhaps even a father for some. Although discussions are ongoing whether it helps or harms the representation more.

On the other hand, the monolith for which Sweden was famous is no longer so scary. As a team, Sweden is weaker. Even at Euro, the team won matches with character, it owed a lot to its mentality. You can’t see it now. They can play like that for 75 minutes as in qualifying against Spain, but in the end they lost anyway. Such, for example, a match with Georgia, which actually collapsed Sweden in the qualifying round, lost their heads.

As Poland (with the possible transition of Russia), should we count on the success of the Czechs?

Neither Russia, nor the Czech Republic, nor Sweden is San Marino, Andorra or Albania. This would be Paulo Sousa’s first major game to win, so I can imagine that after a victory over Russia, the inflated balloon would grow to the size of Warsaw. In such considerations of fans, neither the Swedes nor the Czechs would be terrible to us. Let’s say that by some miracle we manage to cross Russia. Theoretically, it’s easier to play against the Czechs. It is a weaker band, you know it better in Poland. We are also closer to them with our style of play and mentality.

Remember that historically we don’t like playing with Swedes. We can say that they are other teams, or we don’t believe in some statistics, but somehow we still lose against them. Looking at the qualifying form, the Czechs did worse than the Swedes. So I don’t know what would have to happen for Sweden to lose this match. Only a nightmare as in the meeting with Georgia would have to happen.

“The Polish national team is one step ahead of the Czechs”

What is the mood of the Czechs after the draw?

Grzegorz Rudynek: The first comments were that the Italians and Portugal were happily avoided. The players themselves also emphasize this, although they also say that in order to enter the World Cup, you cannot look at the class of your opponent. You have to win with everyone.

Are there any concerns about a clash with Sweden?

Probably not. Of course, there is talk of their latest results and achievements at Euro 2020, but my concerns have not caught my attention. There is more joy because of missing the favorites in the play-offs, here the scales are clearly tilted in this direction.

Czechs pay attention to the fact of playing away? We put a lot of emphasis on this topic.

Yes, they definitely do return, although in fact they will be talking about it a bit later, probably before the play-offs themselves. Then they will definitely come back to the matches from the fall. In the Czech Republic, the result at Euro was considered something extraordinary, it was a huge success. But recently it started shaking the nose. The national team did not make a step forward, did not keep up the pace with the tournament. It is alleged that the Czech Republic has turned gray and that it does not present anything special. When it is time for deeper analysis, there will probably be voices that the Czechs are just average and the results at the tournament did not reflect the real possibilities.

A poll appeared on the Czech Sport website, in which only 33% of people voted for the Czech Republic to advance to the tournament. I don’t know how many people took part in it, but such a division does say something.

Why is Legia Warszawa not Slavia Praga?

What’s your opinion? Probably you’d rather hit the Czechs.

Sure. I have already exchanged text messages with coach Silhavy, we want to have a cup of coffee before the game! There was a conversation with him after the draw, where he answers the question about a possible rival in the play-off final. He said that he would prefer to face Poland, because it is, above all, a close region. The Czechs have a great fondness for our country, especially for Euro 2012. They had their base in Wrocław and were delighted. They also have good memories of the Polish fans who supported them. Let this sentiment be proved by the fact that Petr Cech was not to be called to our friendly match with the Czechs in Wrocław, they wanted to let him rest. But due to the fact that he has fond memories of this place, he did not want to miss this match. The then coach Pavel Vrba took him.

Best scenario – a jackdaw, have a chat in good company, and then bring the Czechs back to you after the victory in Wrocław.

The Polish national team is, above all, one step ahead in terms of development. The Czechs flashed at the Euro and then fell. However, we are still ahead of them, despite the poor tournament. But we will see. A bit has changed in this team, because Darida finished his national team career, and the Czechs were largely based on him. Besides, this team was mainly composed of Slavia Praga players or players who until recently played for this club and traveled to Europe. Recently, Slavia has been decimated by injuries, so the squad has been somewhat stuck to the knee. So what we saw from the Czechs after the World Cup is also not 100% reliable.

It is definitely not a rival we could ignore.

Exactly. They are not so much worse than us to approach it that way.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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