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World Cup Preview – Poland (29/32)

Poland

UEFA

Group H

Best WC Performance: 3rd – 1974 and 1982

Current World Ranking: 8

History

Not as impressive as you may have thought.

2018 will be Poland’s eighth appearance at a world cup finals. Their best finish to date is third place, which they achieved in 1974 and 1982. But aside from those tournaments, they’ve never won a world cup knock-out tie.

Their record at the European Championships is even worse. Poland only qualified for their first appearance in 2008, and their only foray into the knock-out stages to date was in 2016 where they lost to eventual champions Portugal on penalties in the quarter-finals.

After two group stage exits in 2002 and 2006, this summer marks Bialo-czerwoni’s first appearance on the world stage in 12 years. Having earnt a position in pot one of the draw for Russia, they know they will get fewer better chances to mount a serious challenge.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus).

Defenders: Jan Bednarek (Southampton), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Thiago Cionek (SPAL), Kamil Glik (Monaco), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund).

Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Wolfsburg), Jacek Goralski (Ludogorets Razgrad), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Paris St-Germain), Rafal Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze), Karol Linetty (Sampdoria), Slawomir Peszko (Lechnia Gdansk), Maciej Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli).

Forwards: Dawid Kownacki (Sampdoria), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli), Lukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht).

Group Fixtures:

  1. Vs Senegal 16:00, 19.06.18                                  Otkyrie Arena, Moscow
  2. Vs Colombia 19:00, 24.06.18                                  Kazan Arena, Kazan
  3. Vs Japan 15:00, 28.06.18                                  Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

Manager – Adam Nawalka

60-year-old Adam Nawalka leads Poland to Russia this summer, having held his post as head coach since 2013.

Through the 1970s and 80s Nawalka played in Poland for Wisla Krakow and the national team, earning a place in the 1978 world cup’s team of the tournament.

He would take an extended spell out of the professional game after calling time on his playing career, before he entered management in 1996. Since then the former midfielder returned to manage Krakow in three separate stints, gradually building the reputation which earnt him the top job in 2013.

Qualification

Drawn in UEFA group E with Armenia, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Montenegro and Romania, Poland made light work of qualification.

A final record of eight wins, a draw and a loss left them on 25 points, five clear of second place Denmark. It was the danes who inflicted that solitary loss – a 4-0 defeat in Copenhagen – while Kazakhstan earnt the draw.

Despite the dominant points total, many games were edged, with the goals of Robert Lewandowski sparing the blushes of a defence which leaked 14 goals over the 10 fixtures.

Amazingly though, Lewandowski alone bagged 16 in the same period. Three hat-tricks and firing a blank only once, put him joint top scorer in world qualifying.

Captain – Robert Lewandowski

Not the first or last time the big Bayern striker will feature in this preview, Robert Lewandowski is the current captain of the Polish national team.

The former Borussia Dortmund marksman made his international debut in 2008 at the age of 20, and has since won over 90 caps.

With Russia likely to be his first and last world cup, If Poland progress from the group stage, there is a possibility Lewandowski will earn his 100th cap during the tournament.

Danger man – Robert Lewandowski

Him again.

In his 94 caps, he’s scored 53 goals. More specifically, 30 of those have come in his last 28 appearances. With Bayern, he has 106 league goals in 126 matches. This is a player at the top of his (and the world’s) game.

With Poland experimenting with a three-man defence in recent friendlies, expect to see Lewandowski targeted from balls out wide. If opposition snuff out wide danger, his central link-up play with Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik will take centre stage.

Young Player – Jan Bednarek

At 22, Jan Bednarek has shown glimpses of the potential that Southampton saw in him last summer.

Yet to establish himself as a regular for the Saints or his country, the big Pole will be keeping a close eye on fellow centre-back Kamil Glik’s recovery from injury as his chances of a starting berth improve.

Having represented Poland at every age level from Under-16 onwards, Bednarek is tipped to have something of a breakthorugh campaign next season, that could be stimulated by a good showing in Russia.

PL Players

Several English based players will travel with Poland this summer, though currently only one is set to appear in the Premier League next season.

The one in question is Southampton’s Jan Bednarek, after the Saints eventually preserved their premier league status following a difficult season.

Elsewhere, Lukasz Fabianski and Grzegorz Krychowiak will join Ipswich Town’s Bartosz Bialkowski and Kamil Gosicki of Hull City in the championship, following Swansea and West Brom’s relegation to the second tier.

Goalkeepers Fabianski and Bialkowski are hotly linked with clubs around Europe, and could force moved with impressive outings this summer.

Prediction

Group H is arguably the most open group. Though drawn from pot one, Poland were the lowest ranked side in that elite, but will fancy their chances against Colombia, Japan and Senegal.

With little experience, the Polish FA arranged recent friendlies facing teams from other continents in a bid to test the team’s mettle against similar opposition to group H. Fans will remain concerned following a solitary win over South Korea, and narrow losses to Mexico and Nigeria.

That said, this Polish squad is not 10th in the world for no reason. Just one competitive loss over 90 minutes since the start of 2016 suggests that the squad has a new resilience when under the biggest pressure.

Colombia are likely to provide the biggest test, but Poland should progress overall.

Sam Hanys

Ipswich Town fan and Loughborough University student.

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