Euro 2016: Poland plotting a course into knockout stages

Lewandowski’s goals will again be key if Poland are to perform this summer

Having, against all the odds, qualified for Euro 2016, Northern Ireland find themselves in a daunting Group C with Germany, Poland and Ukraine, how will they fare against some of Europe's most feared attackers? Ken Early reports.

 

Prospects

The presence of Robert Lewandowski, who scored 13 goals in qualifying, looks to be the best reason to back the Poles for a place in the tournament’s latter stages but there is quality elsewhere in this team as Irish fans will remember from the games in Dublin and Poland. Adam Nawalka’s side was the better of the two on each occasion and players like Lukasz Piszczek, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jakub Blaszczykowski bring both ability and experience to the team. Krychowiak travels after another good sseason with Sevilla and Ajax’s Arkadiusz Milik has his moments in qualifying too. There should certainly be goals in the side and, given the favourable lay of the land, that alone could be enough to get them to the quarter-finals.

How they qualified

If Richard Keogh’s second half header in Warsaw last October had found the net then this paragraph would read a lot differently. Poland would have been condemned to the play-offs and Ireland would have qualified automatically. But, alas, it didn’t. And in the end it didn’t matter anyway for Martin O’Neill’s team. After an early win over Germany they were well in the driving seat to spring a group-winning surprise ahead of the world champions. However, draws with Ireland and Scotland and a loss to Germany saw them finish a point behind Joachim Low’s side but three ahead of Ireland, securing their path to the finals.

Manager: Adam Nawalka

The 58-year-old former Polish international took up the reins of the national team in 2013 after a dismal World Cup qualifying campaign. Nawalka’s influence was immediate and, coupled with the scintillating form of Robert Lewandoswki, he led them to qualification at his first attempts.

Star man: Robert Lewandowski

Ireland fans will quickly remember the contribution of Robert Lewandowski during Euro 2016 qualifying after the Pole netted the winner in Warsaw in the final Group D match, forcing Martin O’Neill’s team into the play-offs. Given the fact that the 27-year-old has scored 41 goals in 49 games this season it seems strange to say that his form has dipped somewhat over the second half of the season but, given the frankly ridiculous heights it reached during September and October of last year, there was always going to be a drop-off. Don’t forget that less than a year ago the Pole netted nine goals in just three Bundesliga games, including an incredible five in just nine minutes against Champions League quarter-finalists Wolfsburg.

One to watch: Arkadiusk Milik

At just 22 Milik has made a quick impact at international level, netting six goals during qualifying, including one in the 2-0 win over Germany. Last year the striker made the switch from Bayer Leverkusen to Ajax and has scored a very impressive 24 goals in 42 games this season. Now a well-settled regular in the national side he will be expected to supplement the goals of Lewandowski in France.

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Artur Boruc (Bournemouth), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Wojciech Szczesny (Roma).

Defenders: Thiago Cionek (Palermo), Kamil Glik (Torino), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Tomasz Jodlowiec (Legia Warsaw), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Bartosz Salamon (Cagliari), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Lechia Gdansk).

Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Fiorentina), Kamil Grosicki (Rennes),  Bartosz Kapustka (Cracovia), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Karol Linetty (Lech Poznan), Krzysztof Maczynski (Wisla Krakow), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk),  Piotr Zielinski (Empoli).

Forwards: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Filip Starzynski (Zaglebie Lubin), Mariusz Stepinski (Ruch Chorzow).

What President Trump says...

“I love the Polish. Great workers. I’ve paid a lot of money to Polish workers over the years. Those court judgements were tremendously unfair but I paid the money.”

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