Poland were on their flight back to Warsaw last night after a sour defeat to Portugal on penalties in Marseille. A harsh result after quite a stunning performance on the night and in the tournament as a whole can help them keep their heads held high. They were on top of the Portugal for large parts of the game, and a spot in the last 4 of the European Championships would have been no surprise.
Poland entered the Stade Velodrome with a record of no defeats in their previous 5 games, which is decent in itself, considering they were able to keep World Champions Germany at bay. A stern defensive line compiled with a flair-filled attacking setup has made Poland one of the most entertaining teams of the tournament.
The side has a fair mixture of experience with the likes of Jakub Blaszczykowski, Robert Lewandowski and a brave setup of youth in the form of Arkadiusz Milik and Bartosz Kapustka.
Poland arrived at the tournament facing an uphill task of qualifying through a fairly tricky group with favorites Germany, neighbours Ukraine and a fiery Northern Ireland.
They got off to a flying start with a win in Nice against Northern Ireland as Arkadiusz Milik’s goal proved to be enough. A clash against Germany was next, and there, Poland showed their resilience, managing to shut Germany out and have a few decent chances of their own, but were unable to take it.
The win against Ukraine on matchday three sealed qualification as Jakub Blaszczykowski (yet again) scored a well-worked team goal. They beat Switzerland in the Round of 16 on penalties – which were perfect – before losing out to Portugal with opposite fate.
Despite a heart-breaking exit, Poland look like a team that can finally relive the glory days of the late 70s and early 80s. The current crop of players is filled with quality as well asdepth and should ease through the qualifiers tomake their first FIFA World Cup appearance since 2006.
They’ve got great names in goal to start with. Lukasz Fabianski proved his worth at the Euros with some stunning saves – including one off a fizzling free-kick from Switzerland’s Ricardo Rodriguez. Wojciech Szczesny started the first game, but lost his place through injury and will be keen to topple Fabianski off the starting berth in time for the World Cup.
The centre-half pairing of Torino’s Kamil Glik and Legia Warsaw’s Michal Pazdan was excellent throughout the tournament and only conceded the first of two goals in the knockout rounds. All that, combined with Łukasz Piszczek and Artur Jędrzejczyk out on the flanks, creates a formidable defence with equal strength in attack. The back four looks settled and powerful when called into action and creates a different dimension for the team.
The midfield is where the majority of their talent is i . Grzegorz Krychowiak, arguably Poland’s best player, was the machine of the teea, comfortably linking attack with defence and setting up crucial chances for his teammates. The Sevilla man, linked with a €45 million move to French side Paris Saint-Germain, seemed unfazed by the rumors linking him away and put on impeccable performances in France.
Paired with Krychowiak in midfield was 19-year-old Bartosz Kapustka, who only made his debut in September 2015. Despite being involved in a brawl prior to the tournament, Kapustka left his off-field worries behind him and put on a staggering performance that may have raised the eyebrows of Europe’s biggest clubs.
The experience of Jakub Błaszczykowski was pivotal to the Poles. The winger, who featured in every game, was the star-attraction of the side and proved his worth with two stunning goals in consecutive games. The pain of missing a crucial penalty against Portugal may haunt him forever, but his fighting background suggests he can get over it and come back even better.
His energy and skill was vital to the side in defence and in attack and was an asset to coach Adam Nawalka. Kamil Grosicki was also a threat to opposition defences whenever his chance to do so came. The 28-year-old announced his arrival to the grand stage with some tireless performances and is rumored to be the subject of a bid from English sides Swansea and Everton.
His directness would be an asset to any forward and he could be set for a move after a fantastic summer in France. The flanks will be bombarded by talent and speed by Poland throughout the qualifiers and the main tournament in Russia itself.
Up top is where that “galactico” is, but before him, there is a budding Arkaduisz Milik who recently concluded a goal-laden season with Ajax. Despite his often-inadequate finishing, Milik played an important role supporting Lewandowski and has the ability to play in deeper positions. At just 22 , the forward is set to get even better and is the perfect replacement for the Bayern Munich hitman.
The captain himself, who was often criticized for underperforming throughout the tournament got his first goal in the loss to Portugal, but more than that, contributed heavily in midfield and out on the flanks. He’ll be 30 by the time the World Cup comes around and, if he his able to carry on his Bayern Munich form, he can fire Poland to a huge finish.
Coach Adam Nawalka has brought out the best since taking over the reins of the national team in 2013. His man-management skills and his calmness are of great effect and he is expected to carry on working to achieving great success with his side. A stellar force, both in defence and attack, Poland will be ones to fear in Russia in two years’ time.