World Cup 2018 is knocking the doors and the 32 participating nations are now highly enthusiastic and fully focused upon completion of club football. They are proud to represent their countries in such a prestigious event and a few of them, on paper, is capable of becoming the ‘dark horse’ of the competition. Poland are probably one of them.
Poland have been in-and-out since the inception of this competition and failed to qualify on two previous occasions. They, however, witnessed a massive upsurge in Euro 2016 where they progressed through to the quarterfinals of the competition. The dominance continued in the qualifiers where they finished as group leaders to seal a berth for Russia and tipped to cause a few upsets throughout their journey in World Cup 2018.
Coach: Adam Nawalka
Captain: Robert Lewandowski
Nickname(s): Biało-czerwoni (The White and Reds)
Last Qualified: 2006
Result in 2014: Did Not Qualify
Qualified From: UEFA
World Cup Appearances: 8 Times
Best World Cup Finals Result: Third Place (1974, 1982)
The Final 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).
FORWARDS: Dawid Kownacki (Sampdoria), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli), Lukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht).
1) Robert Lewandowski
Poland’s highest scorer of all time is one of the most successful names in world football for his prolific goal-scoring record and superiority inside the box. A proper ‘number 9’ who has physical and aerial supremacy, great sense of positioning and stunning finishing traits. Lewandowski was nurtured by Jurgen Klopp in Borussia Dortmund before his Bosman move to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich where he is still going strong and guiding them to successive title triumphs by notching goals week in week out.
2) Piotr Zielinski
The 24-year-old Napoli star has been compared to Belgian sensation Kevin De Bruyne by gaffer Maurizio Sarri for his ability to orchestrate the game from behind, tireless down the middle runs, vision, strong passing traits and link-up play high up the pitch. Zielinski enjoyed a successful season in Naples where they kept pushing for the Serie A title until the very end before losing it out to Juventus in the conclusive weeks. But the former Liverpool target has indeed flourished in past two campaigns and must continue his excellence for Poland as well.
3) Łukasz Piszczek
The injury absence of Kamil Glik has now added more responsibility on the veteran Borussia Dortmund fullback who will have to lead a backline that is consisting of relatively unfamiliar names compared to other areas of their lineup.
Poland had a blistering run during the qualifiers where they secured a top of the table spot to make it to the finals. However, the White and Reds are having a mixed run in recent friendlies as they lost to Nigeria (1-0) but clinched a narrow 3-2 victory over South Korea back in March. They failed to defend a two-goal lead and drew against Chile yesterday and will contest Lithuania on 12th June as their final preparation before the main event.
Poland have been drawn alongside Senegal, Colombia, and Japan in Group H. They will play Senegal in their opening match on 19th of June, followed by Colombia and Japan on 24nd and 28th June respectively.
All the four teams of Group H are pretty balanced and capable of making it to the knockouts. It will be a close contest and Poland have to be their absolute best to proceed to the Round of 16. An upset might lead them to the quarterfinals, but the task will be colossal to progress beyond that.
Robert Lewandowski’s parents were so convinced he would follow in their footsteps and be a famous sportsman – they are a judo champion and a pro volleyball player – that they gave him his very un-Polish Christian name to aid future commentators.