Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Poland 1, Russia 1

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source: AP

Man of the match: Leading up the tournament, France-born defender Damien Perquis had to justify his place playing for a country that has had a number of stars naturalized by other countries. On Tuesday, Perquis’ justification came on the field, where he was dominant breaking up play attacking Poland’s left channel and, in the second half, the man creating the turnovers that developed into counterattacks.

NBC Sports: Russia and Poland play out 1-1 draw in Group A

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Poland coach Franciszek Smuda didn’t give Perquis and partner Marcin Wasilewski as much help as he could have. When the team sheet surprisingly had Dariusz Dudka in the team, it looked like he would pair with Eugen Polanski at the base of midfield, providing two players to break up counters and help as Andrei Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev cut inside. Instead Poland played 4-1-4-1 on defense (with Dudka deep), employing a defensive line high enough to dare Russia’s midfielders to hit a perfectly weighted ball. That never happened.
  • Smuda made another astute change after half, swapping wide midfielders Ludomir Obraniak and Jakub “Kuba” Błaszczykowski. Błaszczykowski’s impact still came through the right, though. On a Poland counter, he and Obraniak were able to attack Yuri Zhirkov, turn him around on a Kuba run, and create a chance at the edge of the area. Błaszczykowski blasted the equalizer into the left of goal after a beautiful first touch that took a supporting Sergei Ignashevich out of the play.
  • It was part of a mixed might for Zhirkov. He was dangerous going forward, provided the width Russia needed as they moved Arshavin in from the left, and drew the foul that led to Russia’s goal. Defensively, however, he is still a liability, so much so that he can be targeted by the opposition.
  • It isn’t Russia’s only problem at the back. They remain very vulnerable in the air, with Poland defender Sebastian Boesnich nearly heading Poland in front in the 8th minute. On the night Boesnich would put two more dangerous headers toward goal, with Wasilkewski adding his own pair. Surely I’m wrong, but I can’t remember Russia beating Poland in the air on a corner or restart.
  • Thanks to goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, Russia never had to pay for their poor set piece defending. He made three good saves and had a brave 50th minute punch while giving the day’s best goalkeeping performance.
  • At the other end, Alan Dzagoev scored his third goal of the tournament, redirecting an insanely good Andrei Arshavin cross in for an 38th minute opener. It was the best part of an up-and-down night for each man. Dzagoev spent too much time talking to officials in the second half (and was eventually yellow carded) while Arshavin was inconsistent in his decision-making and, at the end of the match, was seen directing the ball away from his flank as he was too tired to run the attack.
  • When Arshavin did that, Russia had little idea what to do. In the attacking phase, they seem to have one tactic: Get the ball to Andrei. At the end of the match, its redundancy was tiresome. Russia would build down the right, play to Arshavin coming across the top of the area, and he’d either play it back out or be too fatigued to keep the ball. In the last third of the match, they never really challenged for a winner because they were wholly dependent on a spent Arshavin.
  • Poland got a scare at the end of the match when Polanski, one of their two or three best players on the day, went knee-to-knee with Zhirkov. He went off for a few minutes, tired to come back on, but then had to be brought off. It was the type of collision that often ends with a major injury. Hopefully Polanski is fine.
  • Going forward, Russia needs only a draw against Greece to advance. They’ll win the group with a victory on Saturday. Poland plays the Czech Republic needing a win to go through.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.