After disappointing in their last two European Championships, Poland will now head to France with much to look forward to as Adam Nawałka completes his final preparations before the start of the tournament.
As many expected, Poland managed to qualify for Euro 2016 after finishing runners up in Group D, behind neighbours Germany. An impressive performance from the Poles, who demonstrated an impressive attacking display that left them as the top scorers in all of the qualifying groups (33 goals).
Adam Nawałka’s team lost just the once in their entire qualifying campaign, which came against group winners Germany. Although, the White Eagles also managed an impressive 2-0 win over the World Champions on home territory. They only managed a couple of draws against Scotland, while a last minute goal from Shane Long prevented them from doing the double over fellow Euro 2016 finalist’s Ireland.
Barring the four games that they dropped points in, Robert Lewandowski and company spared no remorse in any of their other group matches. They trampled past minnows Georgia and Gibraltar, with the latter conceding an astonishing 15 goals over the two games, while they also netted four against Georgia on two separate occasions.
With Germany losing their penultimate group game, Poland had the chance to go top of the group. But a disappointing trip to Scotland resulted in them barely snatching a point, thanks to a last minute equaliser by Lewandowski in Glasgow. The Bayern Munich star finished as the top scorer in qualifying with 13 goals to his name, which is also an European qualifying record.
Poland will only play in their third ever European Championships, which also happens to be their third successive Euros. They first featured Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland after finishing top of their group in qualifying, only to fail miserably in the tournament and exit in the group stages. They had it even worse in Euro 2012, which they co-hosted along with Ukraine. They once again finished at the bottom of their group and crashed out of the tournament on home soil.
This time around, the Poles have once again impressed in qualifying but will now have to step up on the big stage if they are to go further than the Group stage.
Undoubtedly, Adam Nawałka’s strength lies in his teams attacking abilities. Robert Lewandowski has enjoyed a superb last few seasons, both domestically and internationally. The Bayern Munich forward has netted an impressive 67 goals in 100 appearances for the German Champions, since joining in 2014. The 27-year-old has replicated his form for his national team as well, scoring 16 goals in only 15 appearances.
He will be joined upfront by Ajax’s young striking talent Arkadiusz Milik, who has an equally impressive scoring record. The 22-year-old broke into the Polish team in 2012 and has since scored 10 goals in the 24 times that he has represented his country. But it is his domestic form that has caught the eye of many. In his last two seasons with the Dutch side, he has netted 47 times in only 75 appearances.
Nawałka will be looking towards his front men to provide the impetus that his side will require if they are to overcome the group stages.
Poland Key Man….. Robert Lewandowski
Poland have a tendancy to concede silly and unnecessary goals at crucial times. They have failed to establish a strong centre-half partnership in recent times which has often led to inconsistent defensive performances. They only kept four clean sheets in qualifying, with their only impressive defensive performance coming against Germany in the 2-0 win. The White Eagles also tend to sit back against the bigger teams and often get caught out under pressure.
Nawałka also faces trouble in the wide areas up front. Jakub Blaszczykowski and Kamil Grosicki are usually preferred in the starting spots but have failed to leave any sort of lasting impression, barring a few occasions. The duo must be more consistent in the upcoming competition as they will be responsible for providing Lewandowski and Milik with service upfront.
Poland have gone into their European finals in impressive form on the last three occasions now but have failed to show up when the tournament actually begins. A good showing in France will certainly help shrug of their ‘underdog’ tag.
Predicted finish – Round of 16
Nawałka will attempt to guide his side to their first ever knockout stage in European competitions. Despite failing on previous occasions, the Poles now look a much more complete and composed side. They have been placed in a relatively easy group alongside Germany, Ukraine and Northern Ireland and are widely expected to qualify through to the Round of 16.
Arsenal player to watch… Wojciech Szczeny