Having failed to even qualify for the Euros until 2008, Poland are now considered one of the outside tips to potentially reach the final this summer. With star man Robert Lewandowski up front, there is a feeling amongst Poles that anything could happen at the Euros.
Of course, banking a team’s prospects solely on Lewandowski is foolish. But Poland have the likes of Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Grosicki, Piotr Zielinski and Mateusz Klich in their arsenal – and the development of this team over the years has borne out on the pitch. Poland reached the quarter-finals of the Euros five years ago and are a strong shout to at least match that feat here.
Their road to the Euros began with a 1-0 win in Austria in their first qualifying Group G game and ended with them reigning supreme over the group with eight wins from 10 games. Lewandowski was, of course, top scorer for Poland in qualifying with six goals, although Krzysztof Piatek and Kamil Glik also chipped in with strikes.
Paulo Sousa was only appointed head coach of Poland’s national team in January. Recent results have been promising – a 3-3 draw in Hungary was followed up by a 3-0 win over Andorra, before Poland narrowly lost to Euros favourites England at Wembley. The England display, however, is unlikely to be how Sousa sets out his team at the Euros.
Poland are yet to settle on a system under the new coach but a 4-4-2 formation that leans on Lewandowski and Milik up front is likely to be used against Slovakia and Sweden in the group stage. Sousa may then revert to a 3-4-3 against Spain, in order to provide extra defensive cover from the wings if required.
The first Poland Euro fixture is a clash with Slovakia in Dublin on 14 June. They then travel to Bilbao for a tie with Spain, before jetting back to Ireland to face Sweden. The schedule means Poland will base themselves in Portmarnock on the Irish east coast. Win the group and they would be guaranteed a last-16 game against a third-placed team from groups A, B, C or D. But more realistic is Poland coming second behind Spain and facing Group D’s runners-up – likely to be Croatia or Scotland – in the first knockout round.
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Robert Lewandowski (c)