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Thursday, 6 June, 2019

Poland Euro 2020 team profile: squad, manager, odds and prospects

Polish ambitions rest on talisman Robert Lewandowski

Poland are very reliant on their star striker Robert Lewandowski
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Tournament odds: 80-1

Robert Lewandowski set a new Bundesliga record for the most goals scored in a single campaign as he struck 41 times for Bayern this season, but the prolific Pole has the pressure of carrying the weight of a football-impassioned nation on his shoulders.

At 32, there is a case for suggesting Bayern’s goal getter is better than ever, but the service he acquires in Munich is a class apart from what his Polish teammates can offer.

Poland have twice reached the semi-finals of a World Cup - in 1974 and 1982 - but even with the presence of one of the game’s greats, they haven’t been able to emulate those heroics.

The Poles have limped out at the group stage in five of the six major events they have contested this century. The only deviation to the trend came in France five years ago when subsequent winners Portugal knocked them out in a thrilling quarter-final shootout.

Defenders give special attention to their Warsaw warrior, who failed to notch at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, leaving his tally at just two goals scored from 11 appearances in major competitions.

Paulo Sousa’s side eased through a qualifying group featuring Austria, North Macedonia and Slovenia, collecting 25 points from a possible 30, but there is little in the formbook of late to suggest they can upstage any of Europe’s heavyweights. 

Poland have won only one of their last five competitive matches, suffering Nations League defeats to Italy and Netherlands, while losing 2-1 to England in a Wembley World Cup qualifier and requiring an injury-time equaliser to force a 3-3 draw in Hungary.

Sousa inherits two top goalkeepers in Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, but the ageing Kamil Glik, relegated from Serie A with Benevento, and Southampton’s Jan Bednarek form the heart of a less reliable defence, left more vulnerable by a recent tweak in formation.

Napoli playmaker Piotr Zielinski and the talented but frustrating Arkadiusz Milik will be expected to feed talisman Lewandowski, but whether they can oblige in doing so remains to be seen.

Scouting report

Manager - Paulo Sousa: The Portuguese has overseen just three matches since taking over the baton from Jerzy Brzeczek in January, but shifting to a three-man defence shows he is keen to adopt more attack-minded tactics.

The 50-year-old boasts plenty experience in the dugout, which includes spells in England with QPR, Swansea and Leicester, but this is his first venture into international management and his knowledge of the squad may not be as advanced as some of his peers.

Probable team - formation: 3-4-1-2: Szczesny; Helik, Glik, Bednarek; Bereszynski, Krychowiak, Klich, Rybus; Zielinski; Milik Lewandowski.

Penalty taker: Robert Lewandowski
Free-kick wizard: Arkadiusz Milik
Set-piece aerial threat: Robert Lewandowski
Card magnet: Kamil Glik
Star man: Robert Lewandowski

Team Strengths

  • They are armed with arguably the best out-and-out striker in world football
  • They can choose between two top-class goalkeepers in Juventus number one Wojciech Szczesny and West Ham favourite Lukasz Fabianski
  • Their squad consists predominantly of players who ply their trade in one of Europe's elite divisions

Team Weaknesses

  • Their success depends largely on the influence of Lewandowski, who has a poor record for the Poles in elite competition
  • Poland appear more susceptible at the back under the more aggressive tactics adopted by Sousa - his three fixtures in charge have featured 12 goals
  • Sousa hasn't long been in the Poland set-up, so he may still be unsure on his strongest 11

Prospects: It looks a straight shootout between Poland and Sweden for second and the Poles are narrowly preferred by the layers.

But it is easy to get sucked in by the presence of Lewandowski, who has struggled to make a real impact for his country, and a last-16 place looks the best they can hope for.

Inside info - Paul Szczerbakowicz - Polish commentator
Since 2002 Poland have qualified for seven out of the last ten international tournaments, but barring the Euros in 2016, they haven't got out of the group. There have been no real improvements under new manager Paolo Sousa as yet.

Their attack is reliant on Robert Lewandowski, who has been red-hot  for Bayern but never quite reached the same level for his country. Defence has been their Achilles heel, that said they have a choice of two top goalkeepers in Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski.

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The Poles have limped out at the group stage in five of the six major events they have contested this century