Poland have qualified for their first World Cup since 2006. The team looks like a much changed side from the ones that failed to qualify for all the World Cups since then. Currently 10th in the world, Poland’s expectations for the team are far higher than they have been for a long time. The team got through qualification comfortably in the end, finishing 5 points clear of second placed Denmark.
Robert Lewandowski led the UEFA World Cup qualifying with 16 goals, even beating out Cristiano Ronaldo who had 15 during the qualifying campaign. Picking up only one loss in qualification, the team look to be one of the teams to watch during the competition as they’ve been steadily progressing since 2013. Although the team did not have the most difficult qualification group, the team performed well in order to see themselves through to the World Cup finals in Russia.
Poland Squad Outlook
Goalkeepers: Bartosz Białkowski, Łukasz Fabiański, Łukasz Skorupski, Wojciech Szczęsny
Defenders: Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszyński, Thiago Cionek, Kamil Glik, Artur Jędrzejczyk, Marcin Kamiński, Tomasz Kędziora, Michał Pazdan, Łukasz Piszczek
Midfielders: Jakub Błaszczykowski, Paweł Dawidowicz, Przemysław Frankowski, Jacek Góralski, Kamil Grosicki, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Rafał Kurzawa, Karol Linetty, Krzysztof Mączyński, Sławomir Peszko, Maciej Rybus, Sebastian Szymański, Piotr Zieliński, Szymon Żurkowski
Forwards: Dawid Kownacki, Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Łukasz Teodorczyk, Kamil Wilczek
Please note: This is still a 32 man squad and is not the final 23 man squad who will go to the World Cup
The first place to start would obviously be Robert Lewandowski. The Warsaw born striker has lit the world up ever since he first joined Borussia Dortmund in 2010. Under his captaincy, the national side has gone from strength to strength. The striker led the European qualification in goals, netting 16 in the competition. Any success the Polish team has will require him to step up and contribute during the World Cup.
One noticeable factor in the team is the increasing number of Polish players playing abroad. Polish football is becoming stronger, with more demand internationally for Polish players. Not only are players moving to European clubs, but they are thriving there too. Kamil Glik is a solid centre back for Monaco, Piotr Zielinski is a strong member of Napoli’s midfield and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world.
One player to watch would be Legia Warsaw defender Michał Pazdan. The player became one of the surprising players of Euro 2016, even being linked with high profile clubs such as Barcelona after the tournament. Although not an elite defender, the player delivered when it mattered. If he can repeat his performances of Euro 2016 remains to be seen. Young Southampton defender Jan Bednarek impressed towards the end of the Premier League season. As a young Polish defender, he’s also one to keep an eye out for in the tournament.
King of the Country
Current Polish FA President Zbigniew Boniek is one of the most high profile Polish players to ever represent the country. One of the great midfielders of the 70s and 80s, Boniek played for a number of high profile clubs. He made his name playing for Widzew Łódź in the Polish Ekstraklasa. Widzew during the 70s and 80s were regulars in Europe. This earned the Polish international a move to Juventus, making 81 appearances for the Old Lady.
To conclude his career, he spent three years playing for Roma. In his professional career he won many titles, including 2 Ekstraklasa titles with Widzew and a Serie A title with Juventus. He also won the Coppa Italia with both Juventus and Roma, as well as the European Cup with Juventus. Although he won that European Cup, it was overshadowed by the Heysel Stadium disaster, where 39 people lost their lives because of a stadium wall collapsing. After retiring from playing, he had short managerial stints at various Italian clubs. These included Lecce and Bari. He later went on to briefly manage the Polish national team, before stepping down after 5 matches. Boniek was named by Pelé as one of the best ever football players, naming him to his 125 Greatest Living Footballers list in 2004. Boniek later succeeded Grzegorz Lato as president of the Polish Football Association (PZPN).
Who’s the Gaffa
Current manager Adam Nawałka has been in charge since 2013. Capped 34 times by Poland, the manager is familiar to many Polish fans. He has previously managed a number of Polish club sides. Under Leo Beenhaker’s tenure as national team boss, Nawałka served as an assistant coach. Nawałka’s next appearance with Poland was in 2013 when he took over as the Poland manager. Since his appointment, he had led Poland to the quarter finals of Euro 2016. This is Poland’s highest ever finish at a European Championship. He also comfortably navigated Poland through their World Cup qualifying for 2018, where the team topped their group. It seems international management suits him, as he’s led Poland to as high as 5th in the world rankings, their highest ever position.
Likely Group Finish: 1st
In a group with many well matched teams, Poland look like one of the better teams. With good firepower from players like Lewandowski and Milik, the team should be set for goals. A strong defence featuring Kamil Glik means that this team is going to be difficult to beat, which could serve them well in the tournament.
Likely Overall Finish: Quarter Finals
Lazy Fan Fact
Poland have actually twice finished 3rd at the World Cup. The first time was at West Germany in 1974 and the second in Spain 1982.