- FIFA World Ranking - 27th
- Euro 2012 - 4th in Group A
- FIFA World Cup 2014 - Did not qualify
- Players to watch - Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Arkadiusz Milik
OverviewPoland's football history has been a turbulent one, partly because of the weight of the historical events inflicted on a state that was only created in 1921 - the same year the national team made their international football debut, against Hungary.
Despite reaching the 1938 FlFA World Cup finals, Poland's pre-war record was poor, but the post-war Communist take-over brought great change. Clubs became attached to government bodies and new ones were formed - notably Gornik Zabrze, who reached the UEFA European Cup Winners' Cup final in 1969.
Immediately afterwards, Poland's national team embarked on a 15- year run of achievement, sparked by their gold-medal glory in the football competition at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Their fine young team boasted outstanding individuals, such as Gornik forward Wlodzimierz Lubanski, playmaker Kazimierz Deyna and astute left winger Robert Gadocha.
This trio was joined at the 1974 FIFA World Cup finals by Gregorz Lato, Poland's second most capped player (100 times), with Jan Tomaszewski in goal. Poland finished third with a team that stayed together for most of the decade and reached the FIFA World Cup finals again in 1978.
More success followed at the 1982 finals, when, with Zbigniew Boniek outstanding, Poland reached the semi-finals. They also reached the second round in 1986, but then the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s led to the withdrawal of state subsidies and the clubs were forced to sell their star players. The national team suffered as a result.
Sixteen years would pass before pass returned to the FIFA World Cup they finals, and they did not reach the final stages of the European Championships until 2008. Perhaps overawed, they finished fourth in a difficult group that featured Croatia, Germany and co-hosts Austria.
Four years later, Poland were the centre of attention at the finals when they co-hosted the tournament with neighbouring Ukraine. Coach Franciszek Smuda opted for a blend of youth and experience, but again they finished fourth in their group and failed to progress. They had, however, discovered a centre-forward in Robert Lewandowski, whose goal- scoring feats would soon generate headlines around the world.
|Robert Lewandowski scored the first goal of the tournament as Poland hosted the Euro 2012 tournament.|
Not the least of Lewandowski's achievements came when he scored four times as Poland opened their UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying account with a 7-0 victory over newcomers Gibraltar in a match played in the Algarve, Portugal. New coach Adam Nawalka's team followed up with a proud 2-0 win over Germany, and Lewandowski went on to claim a second hat-trick of the competition against Georgia.
Poland were by no means a one- man team, however. Premier League rivals Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Artur Boruc competed for the goalkeeping berth behind lively Lukasz Piszczek and a midfield springboard featuring versatile Maciej Rybus along with Grzegorz Krychowiak and Arkadiusz Milik from Ajax.
As a result, it was hardly a surprise when Poland ended the campaign assured of a place in France as runners-up to Germany. Lewandowski was leading marksman in the entire qualifying competition with 13 goals, Milik contributed six and Kamil Grosicki four.
Poland, with 33 goals to their credit, were top scorers in all the eight groups, ahead of England (31), Belgium and Germany (24) and Spain (23) - an impressive statistic which surely will have caught the attention of everyone at the finals in France.
Poland will be the surprise package at this year's European Championships. I'm expecting them to advance from Group C as runners-up behind Germany and topple Switzerland in the second round. This alone would warrant a success story for a nation who has not been at the forefront of international football for far too long.
Prediction: Quarter Finals