The road to Russia
Poland dominated their way to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In their qualification group, they squared off with Armenia, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, and Romania. To be fair, it was one of the easier groups in Europe. As a result of that, Poland, under the tutelage of 60-year-old Adam Nawałka, cruised to a 8-1-1 record. Their lone blunders came when they drew Kazakhstan 2-2 in the capital city of Astana, and a 4-0 drubbing suffered at the hands of Denmark in Copenhagen.
Who is their star player?
Where would Poland be without their star striker, Robert Lewandowski? Odds are, without the Bayern Munich star, the Poles would not be in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Of the 28 goals that country scored, en route to a top finish in Group E, Lewandowski netted 16 of them.
If you do the maths (I apologize if you were told there would be no math), that’s 57 per cent of Poland’s goals. That’s a lot of goals. Not only did Lewandowski finish top of the group with 16 goals – he finished top in the UEFA World Cup Qualification – scoring more goals than 32 other nations.
How do they play?
Poland like to stretch their opposition. They start with the ball in the midfield before someone sprays a pass out wide. That strategy, Poland hopes, allows Lewandowski to sneak in behind for an easy goal.
Another area in which they are dominate is on set pieces. Watch out for the big Polish striker on free kicks. He’ll usually be near or making a run toward that back post, looking for an easy header.
The Poland National Team are not necessarily a one-trick pony, but they execute Nawałka’s tactics to near perfection.
How far will they go?
Essentially, then, it breaks down to this: Poland will only go as far as their 6’ 1” striker takes them. The Eagles road to the knockout round of this year’s World Cup is tricky. It’s not a Group of Death, but some teams could cause Poland troubles.
They begin Group H play in Moscow, on 19 June, against Senegal, led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mané. Then, it’s a date between Lewandowski’s teammate: James Rodriguez and Colombia in Kazan. Should Poland get a positive result from this match, there’s a high possibility that you will see the White and Reds in the knockout rounds of this tournament. Finally, Poland will round up group play in Volgograd against the Asian powerhouse Japan.
If Poland are able to make it out of their unscathed, they will probably face two familiar foes in England or Belgium. And either of those matches would certainly be worth circling your calendar for. Here’s where things get tricky. With their main man on form, Poland could squeeze through to the quarter-finals, but probably no further than that.
What should we watch out for?
One thing to take an eye on this tournament is the other guy for Poland. We know Robert Lewandowski will always be leading the line, but who else is going to step up?
Watch out for Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik. The former Ajax man has 38 national team caps to his name, to go with 12 goals at the age of 24. Milik is the future of this Polish team and there isn’t a brighter stage on which to shine. What happens if Milik leads the team in goal scoring this summer? Then certainly Napoli will have to field calls for his signature.
There is also a wide man that does have some pace to burn for Poland, in Hull’s Kamil Grosicki. In the England Championship, Grosicki netted nine times in 38 matches played. He’s a workhorse, despite being among the elder statesman on the squad. Playing wide on the left, Grosicki can provide the service that Lewandowski so desires. He links play well with teammates and can poke a cross into dangerous spots with a bit of ease.