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Can Robert Lewandowski fire Poland into the knockout phase?
Can Robert Lewandowski fire Poland into the knockout phase?

Poland regularly qualify for major tournaments without troubling the latter stages — but they will be hoping to change that at Euro 2020.

Having never previously reached the finals before 2008, the Eagles are enjoying a golden era and should be contenders to at least reach the knockout phase this summer.

Group E favourites Spain are daunting opponents but Poland will fancy their chances of getting past Sweden and Slovakia to progress.

Background

Despite featuring at eight of 21 World Cup tournaments to date, finishing third in both 1974 and 1982, Poland's European Championship record leaves a lot to be desired.

Only in 2008 did they qualify for their first finals, finishing bottom of their group before repeating that feat four years later in 2012 — when they failed to win any of three outings despite being co-hosts.

Things improved significantly at Euro 2016 as they qualified from their group with seven points from nine and edged Swizterland on penalties in the last 16.

Only shootout heartbreak denied them in the quarter-finals against eventual champions Portugal, suggesting their fans can be confident of another respectable showing five years on.

How they qualified

As comfortable favourites in Group G, it did not come as a surprise that Poland managed to secure a place at Euro 2020.

But the fact it was so straightforward should breed confidence — they finished six clear of Austria on 25 points from 10 games, losing just once and winning eight.

They struggled to score goals when compared with other group winners, netting just 18, but defensively were very strong with just five conceded.

The ever reliable Robert Lewandowski was their top scorer, finding the back of the net six times.

The line-up

Wojciech Szczesny should start in goal ahead of Lukasz Fabianski
Wojciech Szczesny should start in goal ahead of Lukasz Fabianski

Although they do not have a great amount of depth right across the pitch, Poland are blessed with two very strong goalkeepers.

Both Wojciech Szczesny of Juventus and West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski will be available but the former will likely get the nod.

Up front, Arkadiusz Milik and Krzysztof Piatek will be competing with Lewandowski for a striking berth.

But with coach Paulo Sousa preferring to play a 4-2-3-1, they are both likely to start on the bench unless the Bayern Munich star suffers an injury.

Leeds ace Mateusz Klich will support him from the No10 role, flanked by Brighton’s Jakub Moder and Derby’s Kamil Jozwiak. 

Piotr Zielinski will partner Grzegorz Krychowiak at the base of the midfield, with a back four of Tomasz Kedziora, Kamil Glik, Jan Bednarek and Maciej Rybus.

Predicted line-up: Szczesny; Kedziora, Glik, Bednarek, Rybus; Zielinski, Krychowiak; Jozwiak, Klich, Moder; Lewandowski.

Star player: Robert Lewandowski

Poland may not be among the frontrunners this summer but they do have the world’s best in a position at their disposal.

Lewandowski hit 41 Bundesliga goals for Bayern Munich in 2020-21 — a league record — and even at 32 remains at the top of his game.

Clinical, stylish and superb at linking play, he will give Sousa’s side a chance in any match and could be the difference between winning and losing in those crucial encounters against Sweden and Slovakia.

Up-and-comer: Jakub Moder

Brighton's Jakub Moder will be hoping to make an impression
Brighton's Jakub Moder will be hoping to make an impression

Moder has yet to fully make an impact in the Premier League with Brighton but has oozed potential in his limited game time for the Seagulls.

The 22-year-old midfielder still needs to find his feet on the international stage but will hope to really make an impact at Euro 2020.

He was particularly adept at pressing defenders and winning the ball high up the field in 2020-21 — a record of 0.83 possessions won in the attacking third per 90 minutes put him inside the division’s top 30 players.

The boss: Paulo Sousa

Former QPR, Swansea, Fiorentina and Basel coach Sousa only took the Polish job in January, so has had little time to really make an impact.

This is his first foray into senior international management, having worked at club level since a brief period coaching in the Portugal youth set-up more than a decade ago.

The 50-year-old has won trophies in Hungary, Israel and Switzerland, so will be looking to bring that winning mentality to Poland at Euro 2020.

All information correct as of midday, June 4, 2021

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