In qualifying for the 2016 UEFA European Championships, the Polish had the challenge of surfacing from a relatively strong group. The group featured Germany, Ireland, and Scotland with Georgia and Gibraltar also along for the ride. The inclusion of Ireland and Scotland, as well as the World Champions Germany indicated that a tussle over the automatic qualification positions – at least second place after highly favoured Germany – would ensue. However, Poland brushed that possibility to one side with a dominant display. They advanced from the group with only one loss, as did their German rivals, and that was a 3-1 loss in Frankfurt to Germany but not before they had drawn first blood with a 2-0 victory over the World Champions in Warsaw.
Poland’s main attacking threat comes in the form of the popular and clinical FC Bayern Munich man, Robert Lewandowski. He plundered thirteen goals in ten matches for Poland’s qualification efforts, equalling the all-time record for the amount of goals scored by one player in the qualification stages. Poland also qualified with the most goals scored by any team, with thirty-three in this year’s competition. In addition to Lewandowski’s rampant goal scoring, twenty goals were contributed by the rest of the team, and to put that into perspective, Germany topped the group with one more point than Poland but with nine goals less.
Poland has another danger man in it’s ranks, Arkadiusz Milik. The twenty-two year old Ajax striker has scored twenty-one goals in thirty-one league appearances for club this season and he rounds off what seems to be a very potent Polish attack with six goals provided by him in the qualifiers.
Keepers: Wojciech Szczesny (Roma), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Artur Boruc (Bournemouth)
Defenders: Jakub Wawrzyniak (Lechia Gdansk), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Kamil Glik (Torino),
Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), Bartosz Salamon (Cagliari), Thiago Cionek (Palermo)
Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Fiorentina), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Piotr Zielinski (Empoli),
Tomasz Jodlowiec (Legia Warsaw), Kamil Grosicki (Rennes), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk),
Krzysztof Maczynski (Wisla Krakow), Karol Linetty (Lech Poznan), Bartosz Kapustka (Cracovia Krakow),
Filip Starzynski (Zaglebie Lubin).
Forwards: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Mariusz Stepinski (Ruch Chorzow)
Poland has only ever qualified twice for any UEFA European Championship final tournament having first featured back in 2008. This is not to suggest that Poland has never done well on the international stage. They are two-time earners of FIFA World Cup bronze medals and they have won an Olympic gold in their history but somehow Euro final qualification has always managed to escape them. Along with that less than stellar track record, Poland has not won a match at either of their UEFA European Championship final tournament entries and this year they will be hoping to finally make a statement in the region.
The Polish team is assembled by their manager, Adam Nawałka. Though not much is known to the world in the managerial context of football about Nawałka, it wasn’t long before he had convinced that he was the right man for the job with thirteen (13) wins, seven (7) draws and four (4) losses, his team scored sixty (60) goals and conceded twenty-one (21) goals. A tactical manager is one way to describe him. He sets his team up to alternate between formations which depends on the forwards he plays, most notably 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. The tweaks he makes to his team by factoring the subtle differences between oppositions have been noticed. He has brought much cohesion to his squad and that has been considered as a big factor in the recent successes.
Poland has found themselves in Group C with Northern Ireland, Ukraine and, once again, Germany in the final tournament. Northern Ireland and Ukraine can be reasonably considered as winnable games for Poland, but each do bring different strengths to the fore. Northern Ireland has proven to be sturdy at the back and very prolific with set-pieces having nine (9) of their twelve (12) goals in qualification being set-pieces, while Ukraine’s main strength lies within their wing-play, featuring wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka. The World Champions are the clear favourites to top Group C and this outcome can only be seen as a confidence booster for Poland. Having already beaten Germany in the qualifiers, it should give Poland the belief that they need to make it out of the group.