WARSAW: Poland and Russia are doing their best to keep their minds on soccer ahead of a Euro 2012 Group A game today that off the pitch looks like one of the tournament's potential flashpoints.
Authorities in Warsaw have been working hard behind the scenes to ease concerns over a planned march by Russian fans through the city to the national stadium.
Minister of Sport Joanna Mucha has played down outrage at the plan from some in Warsaw for whom that is too reminiscent of Russia's dominance of Poland during the communist era.
"I do not think there will be any problems with this march or with this day. I am sure everything will go all right," she told Reuters television.
"It is absolutely normal for the fans supporting the teams just to have a march during the tournament, so this is an absolutely normal situation."
Russian fans were also at the centre of a handful of incidents in the southern city of Wroclaw around Friday's game against the Czech Republic and are expected to be in Warsaw in force today.
Their team produced the performance of the tournament to crush the Czechs 4-1 in an exuberant display of swift movement and flawless finishing on Friday.
That reinforced their status as firm favourites for Group A, although the Poles showed enough in a dominant first-half display against Greece to suggest they will not be pushovers.
"The Russians are favourites but we've played with teams who are better than they are. There is no reason to be scared. We are at home," Polish attacking midfielder Adrian Mierzejewski said.