Little by little, following a long period of emptiness that has lasted since the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Poland’s national football team have taken steps to regain their place among the greats of world football. Strong evidence of their improvement was seen from their well-deserved position at the top of their qualifying group for Russia 2018. The Poles qualified in style, giving them their place in the finals after two missing out the previous two, in Brazil and South Africa. During the last European Championships in France we were given a taste of their potential and it was only bad luck that prevented them from making even bigger headlines. They were eliminated before even losing a match in normal play, with eventual winners Portugal putting them out on penalties at the quarter-final stage. Robert Lewandowski is the player who caries much of Poland’s success and ambition on his shoulders, while in their coach, Adam Nawalka, they have the experience and direction necessary to return to a place they once occupied (third-place in both Germany ‘74 and Spain ‘82 and they shone in Argentina ’78 despite going out in the Last 16).
The Polish recipe is simple. Work hard, don’t give away chances at the back, and through clever use of their numerous good players, focus all efforts in creating chances for their star player: Robert Lewandowski. Poland is a national side that should not be taken lightly and will be a hard opponent to defeat for anyone, especially with little pressure on them, when they are at their most dangerous. A dark horse to make the latter knock-out stages.
|DOB: 23/10/1957||Preferred system: 4-4-2|
|Matches: 43||W/D/L: 24/12/7|
The success of this ‘new’ Poland is, in part, due to this man, Adam Nawalka. Picking up a team at a low ebb after the disappointing blow as hosts of Euro 2012 and not then qualifying for the next World Cup. They sat 78th in the Fifa ranking, and he has taken them to the heights of the top eight. Nawalka understood the needs of the Polish national team and he has adapted to the modern game. His past as a midfielder, where he was a star of the 1978 World Cup side, has given him a bonus piece of experience to pass on to his players. His obsession is ensuring they have a strong defence and their successes come on the back of an important work ethic. He has managed to combine the group with a perfect blend of mature heads (Lewandowski, Glik, Kuba, Krychowiak, Grosicki …) and youth exuberance (Zielinski, Linetty, Milik, Kaputska). It’s fair to say that this Poland is a reflection of Nawalka the player.
|DOB: 21/08/1988||Age: 29||Position: Forward||Club: Bayern Munich|
|Height: 185 cm||Weight: 79 kg||Caps: 91||Goals: 51|
In Robert Lewandowski, Poland have a fully matured striker, one of the purest line-leaders at the top of the game over the last decade. Turning 30 not long after the World Cup, the Bayern Munich player brings together all the qualities of a great footballer (speed, dribbling, intelligence, physique and leadership) which he brings together to produce an almost unmatched nose for goal. He is a predator of the penalty area demonstrated by being the top scorer across all European qualifiers with 16 goals. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Lewandowski is the best Polish player in their history, even ahead of legends like Lato and Boniek, as can already claim proudly to be the greatest goalscorer the country has ever seen. A constant nuisance for opposition defences, Lewandowski is the one who makes the real difference in the team. If he is on form then regardless of what is behind him Poland can aspire to great things. Lewandowski could be one of the true stars in Russia this summer.