Leading up to the European Championship, several experts predicted that this Poland team could be very dangerous and go a long way in the tournament. Białe Orły came into the Euros as the top scorers with 33 goals with their attack spearheaded by arguably the best striker in the world at this present moment, Robert Lewandowski. Having defeated world champions Germany during qualifications, Adam Nawalka’s men showed that they are capable of competing and even getting the better of the best on offer in the world of football. With high expectations and the pressure from their nation to deliver a great run in France, the Poles have done themselves no harm two games into the tournament. With their performance and result against Germany, is this Polish team just a dark-horse or a genuine contender for the Henri Delaunay trophy?
Before the start of the tournament there was no question that Białe Orły had goals in them. Going forward they have been excellent. However, in a tournament at the highest level, defending is hugely significant and the Poles have shown that they’re more than capable of protecting their own net. With two games behind them, Poland has kept two clean sheets and have been impressive at the back led by Kamil Glik who plies his trade in Italy with Torino. The likes of Krzysztof Maczynski and Grzegorz Krychowiak have also protected their defenders very well, equally setting the platform for the attackers to work their magic.
The Poles were unconvincing against Northern Ireland as they struggled to breakdown a team sitting deep with everyone behind the ball. They managed to find a moment of inspiration to get the ball in the back of the net via the boot of gifted Ajax youngster Arkadiusz Milik. It was the first game of the tournament and they may have been a bit of nerves which caused a tentative display against the Irish but a bigger test awaited them in the form of Germany. The good news heading into the blockbuster clash was the return to full fitness of their playmaker Kamil Grosicki who scored four times during qualifications and bagged five assists. With a full strength squad, the Poles were undoubtedly the better team on the day, creating the better opportunities while nullifying the threat of the dynamic and dangerous Die Mannschaft.
In their stalemate with the much fancied Germans, Milik had two glorious opportunities to hit the back of the net but failed miserably in front of goal. After an uneventful first half, Grosicki played a delightful cross into the six yard box from the right getting it past Jerome Boateng with the Ajax man having the goal at his mercy. Manuel Neuer was beaten and all that was needed was a shot on target. However, Milik did the more difficult part in spurning the best chance of the game. Grosicki worked his magic again a few minutes down the left and pull the ball back for Milik on his much fancied left foot, only for the former Augsburg starlet to miss his kick in the centre of the goal at about 12 yards from the target.
Nawalka was visibly the happier manager at the end of the game but he and his team, particularly Milik, must be kicking themselves for not punishing the world champions. Perhaps more impressive for the Nawalka was that there was no weakness that could be identified in his team. They were extremely solid at the back with Glik and Michal Pazdan communicating well, assured in their tackles, and reading the game very well. Lukasz Piszczek and Artur Jedrzejczyk were brilliant on both sides of the ball while Krychowiak controlled proceedings in the middle of the park. His organisation and command of the team is quite remarkable and with a feisty Maczynski snapping at the heels of the opposition partnering him, they hardly gave anything away in both outings.
Going forward they’re as good as anyone with Krychowiak supplying the wide players with his great distribution while the pace, trickery, and subtle touches from Kuba Blaszczykowski and Grosicki are causing all sorts of problems for the opposition. To their advantage also is the reputation of Lewandowski and therefore a lot of attention is placed on the Bayern Munich striker which then plays into the hands of an extremely gifted Milik. His movement off Lewandowski has been the benchmark of their attack so far. He found the back of the net against Northern Ireland and should have done so at least once against Neuer. They are very strong in all departments and will be a huge threat to anyone in the knockout stages.
More worryingly for the other teams is that Lewandowski is yet to get going and if the fire is ignited then it will be hard to contain once he finds his feet. Grosicki also looks quite menacing and surely Milik will not have many more days like this when he is wasteful. Krychowiak seems to be improving game by game and with many of Europe’s elite clubs chasing his signature he has every right to put in a great shift when he enters the pitch. They also have good options coming off the bench in the form of promising 19-year-old Bartosz Kapustka and Tomasz Jodlowiec. Empoli’s midfield maestro Piotr Zielinski is yet to get his chance and is another top quality option Nawalka has at his disposal while Slawomir Peszko is also capable of putting in a good shift.