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Poland-Czech Republic Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Getting their first win in a European Championship would be rather timely for Poland, assuring them of a place in the quarterfinals for the first time.
The Czech Republic also need a victory to reach the knockout stage, but may be without captain Tomas Rosicky.
Poland will try to overcome several of their own injuries while capitalizing on one to Rosicky as they face the Czechs on the final match day for Group A on Saturday.
Poland rallied to draw 1-1 with Russia Tuesday after squandering a lead to settle for a draw by the same score against Greece to open Euro 2012 on June 8.
Those results have put the co-hosts third in Group A, needing a victory over the Czech Republic to reach the quarterfinals. That's a stage the Polish have never reached, crashing out of Euro 2008 with a 0-1-2 record.
Surprisingly, that's the only other European Championship that Poland have ever qualified for.
The Czechs, runner-up in Euro 96 and semifinalists in 2004, are also looking to advance out of the group stage after reviving their chances following Tuesday's impressive 2-1 victory over Greece, getting both goals in the opening six minutes. That was a dramatic improvement after losing 4-1 to Russia on June 8.
While both the Czech Republic and Poland are looking for a win, a draw could only give the Czechs a chance at advancing via tiebreakers against the Russians and Greeks.
The Czechs may have to overcome Rosicky's absence after he suffered an injury against Greece and was subbed off at halftime.
"I have a problem with my Achilles' tendon and have no idea what to expect next, I'm afraid," Rosicky said. "From about the 20th minute on, I could barely walk."
If Rosicky can't play, that may only increase the pressure on Vaclav Pilar, known as the "Czech Messi." The midfielder has a goal in each of the last two games.
"I'm happy to score two goals," the 23-year-old Pilar said. "Now, we have a chance to advance."
Improved play in goal may be key to advancing for the Czech Republic. Legendary goalkeeper Petr Cech had a cross slip through his fingers and fall to Theofanis Gekas, who shot it into the open net, giving Greece a sign of life in the second half Tuesday.
That goal could help determine which teams reach the quarterfinals if tiebreakers are needed.
"It was my mistake. Who else is there to blame?" Cech said. "I'd been playing well till then, and I was determined I wouldn't let any in."
Poland are also dealing with injuries, as defender Damien Perquis (shin) and midfielders Dariusz Dudka (abdomen) and Eugen Polanski (knee) picked up minor injuries against Russia. It's unclear if they'll be available Saturday.
Still, the Polish will likely rely heavily on their trio of stars who are teammates at Germany's Borussia Dortmund - Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek.
Lewandowski scored against Greece, while Blaszczykowski's strike Tuesday earned praise as the best goal of the tournament so far.
"They play for a big club that won titles this past year, which is a testament to their skills," midfielder Ludovic Obraniak said. "Kuba is our captain, Lewy our top scorer and Lukasz is our solid right back and has been for a long time. The team turns principally around them."
While another strong performance and possibly a goal or more from Lewandowski would see Poland into the next round, that could also increase his value on the transfer market. It's been widely reported that Manchester United and other big clubs around Europe are showing an interest in the 23-year-old rising star.
"He's made an amazing amount of progress. I hope he continues to develop. He's a young man with big career ahead of him and some of the biggest clubs in Europe are interested in him," said Poland Football Federation president Grzegorz Lato, himself a star striker for Poland and the top scorer at the 1974 World Cup.
At the same time the Poles and Czechs faceoff in Wroclaw, group-leaders Russia faces Greece in Warsaw.
Updated June 14, 2012