Tag Archives: Robert Lewandowski

How Can Manchester United Solve Their Striker Dilemma?

Manchester United would not have won their latest Champions League Group H encounter against Portuguese side Braga at Old Trafford if it was not for the excellence of Javier Hernandez.

Hernandez was the lifesaver – bagging a brace in United’s comeback victory – and showed why he must still be considered a key attacking option for Manchester United this year.

His tireless performance not only caught the attention of the Old Trafford faithful but also of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who stated after the match that the 24-year-old Mexican international striker has given him some selection dilemma ahead of Sunday’s crunch match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

As per Manchester United’s official site, Sir Alex Fergsuon said:

“Chicharito has given me a good problem. He’s got me thinking, I must say that. He and van Persie and Rooney and Welbeck… I don’t know what to do with them to be honest with you.

“The boy is improving all the time. He has a great enthusiasm for the game, he trains magnificently, he practices all the time and his goal ratio is fantastic.

“It was a great ball from Tom Cleverley for the second goal but Chicharito’s movement in behind the defender for the second goal was terrific.”

Given the praise he receives from his manager and his fellow team-mates, the work-rate he puts on the pitch and the attitude he shows on and off the field, everyone would expect Hernandez was starting week-in-week-out for the Red Devils and would be their top choice striker after his dream debut season in the Premier League, but in reality, Chicharito is below Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order at Old Trafford as far as the strikers go and has just made four starts this season (only one in the Premier League).

But after Tuesday night’s man-of-the-match performance, he has surely thrown his hat into the ring for some more regular playing time this term. In his own words he has given the gaffer a ‘problem’ or a ‘selection dilemma’ about whom to play and whom to leave out on the bench.

So, how can United fix their striker dilemma? How can they keep all the four strikers happy at the same time? Which formation should they use?

Without any doubts, Manchester United have one of the best – if not the best – strikeforce in the world. Some squads will have one or maybe even two world-class strikers, but the Red Devils currently have four star strikers in their squad – all of whom are capable of winning the game single-handedly in both domestic and European competitions.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie need no introduction. They are both proven strikers, the top two goal-scorers in the Premier League last season and have scored a total of 362 goals (combined) between them. The duo are also forming one of the most fearsome and dangerous striker partnerships in the league.

Danny Welbeck, the local lad who has come off age in the last couple of seasons, a big-game player and an England regular to whom both the Red Devils and the Three Lions have turn for some inspiration and immediate impact in the past year or so. And then there’s Javier Hernandez, a regular goal-scorer for Mexico, who after Tuesday night’s excellent performance has once again shown everyone that he has the talent in him to become of the top strikers in the world.

They all are stars in their own right and it’s sad to see players who regularly start for their respective countries, on the bench for United. But the answer to handing four star strikers in one squad isn’t selling one of them for a good price in the next transfer window. There is no doubt that United could get a good price for Welbeck or Hernandez but selling them in order to create regular playing time for Rooney and Van Persie is not the answer.

Keeping in mind, the fact that there will be injuries, suspensions, international duties and a number of competitions to play in, a squad needs lot of depth and a number of attacking options, and for United to say that they don’t need a strong squad would be too ignorant. Sir Alex knows it very well that they need to have a lot of depth in their squad – like they had when they won the treble in 99 – and if he is able to keep the players happy, then why sell them?

This means that a rotation policy will be used, meaning that all four strikers will not get the minutes that they would love to every week. There will be times when United’s blockbuster summer signing – Van Persie is rested for Welbeck, and there will also be times when Rooney starts from the bench. This is nothing new in a squad that is blessed with so much of attacking talent. This is what has to happen this season in order to keep all four of them happy at the same time.

In terms of formation, the shift towards the new ‘diamond formation’ (4-1-2-1-2) is the best thing for United to keep their strikers happy as it helps to get most of their best attacking players on the pitch at the same time. The diamond formation is better than the commonly used 4-4-2 or the 4-2-3-1 as it allows for three attacking options rather than two or just the lone striker in the later two formations.

In the new formation, Van Persie and Rooney could both play at the top of the diamond, in behind the two strikers. That would allow Welbeck and Hernandez to get some more playing time than they would have got in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Three strikers start in this formation with one playing behind the two in a very advance midfield role and also creating the link between the midfield and the attack. It means that Van Persie could play up front with Hernandez and Rooney behind them or Rooney with Welbeck and Van Persie behind them creating more chances.

Now talking about what happens to United’s second star signing of the summer – Shinji Kagawa. He was very successful at Dortmund last season playing in the hole behind the striker in this case Robert Lewandowski and he could do the same by playing at the top of diamond with Rooney and Van Persie up front. But that would decrease the involvement of Welbeck and Hernandez.

With Kagawa being very versatile and comfortable with the ball on either foot, the most logical solution is to play him on the left side of the diamond and allow him to drift in the middle with the full-back overlapping. Similar to what Andres Iniesta does for Spain or Barcelona whenever he is played out on the left. Kagawa on the left means that Antonia Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani are all left fighting for one starting position on the right side of the diamond. That means less playing time for all three, especially Nani, who looks like is behind Valencia and Young in the pecking order.

After saying all this, the diamond formation is best formation suited for United’s current squad. Its the most effective way for Sir Alex to get his best attacking players on the pitch at the same time without sacrificing the dominance and creativity in the midfield and on the wings.

Players won’t play each week and will be rotated regularly, but that’s part and parcel of playing football at the highest level and especially at a club like Manchester United. This will create a competition for places and it will be healthy for the players also, as they will have to be at their best at all times and continue to impress the manager both on the pitch during the games and in training.

Manchester United’s Potential Summer 2012 Transfer Targets

Manchester United had a decent last season as they finished second – just on goal difference – behind city rivals, Manchester City in the league but were very disappointing in both European – both the Champions League and Europa League – and the domestic cup competitions. 

This summer, United will look to strengthen their squad as they look to win back the Premier League title from their noisy neigbhours and also try and win the Champions League for the first time since the 2008. Sir Alex Ferguson has already strengthen his squad this summer by signing the Japanese international Shinji Kagawa and the highly-rated youngster Nick Powell, but the Red Devils will have to bring in some more new names if they want to challenge for trophies on all fronts. Here are Manchester United’s potential transfer targets the summer..

LEIGHTON BAINES – EVERTON (DEFENDER)

The Everton left-back has been linked with a move to Old Trafford for some time now and its highly likely that the England international will be a United player before the start of the season. Patrice Evra’s form dipped last term and the Frenchman is not getting any young. With Fabio away on loan at QPR, United need a new left-back and the 27-year-old would be a great choice. Baines, who is very good at set-pieces, is valued around £15m and would be a quality replacement for Evra.

MATS HUMMELS – BORUSSIA DORTMUND (DEFENDER)

The German defender had an outstanding Euros in Poland/Ukraine this summer and was one of the best performers for his country. The former Bayern Munich youth player has been one of the reasons for Dortmund’s success in the past couple of years as they did the League and Cup double last year. The Turkish origin defender, who is rated around £30m, has stated he is very happy to stay at Dortmund having sign new contract recently, but he would be a great signing for the Red Devils and with Rio Ferdinand past his best, he would be a great replacement for the veteran.

ALEX WITSEL – BENFICA (MIDFIELDER)

Portuguese giants Benfica are ready to cash in on the Belgium international, just a year after they signed him from Standard Liege. The 23-year-old was instrumental in helping the Portuguese side make the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season. Manchester United are interested in signing the £20m rated midfielder as they look to add more depth and quality in their midfield. Chelsea are also interested in him and a chance to play alongside his Belgium teammates – Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku – might just incline him towards Stamford Bridge.

LUKA MODRIC – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (MIDFIELDER)

Luka Modric is one name that has been on the Manchester United radar for some time now. With the playmaker ready to leave White Hart Lane this summer in search of regular Champions League football, Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to bring the £36m rated Croatian international to Old Trafford. But according to the reports in various papers in Spain, Modric has already agreed a deal with the La Liga champions Real Madrid and is expected to sign for Jose Mourinho’s side before July 15.

JOAO MOUTINHO – FC PORTO (MIDFIELDER)

Moutinho has attracted a lot of interest from the Premier League this summer after some putting in some impressive displays for Portugal at the Euros. The £25m rated midfielder has been a United target since his Sporting Lisbon days and is seen as an alternative for Luka Modric. Some reports claim that the Red Devils have already launched a bid for the Portuguese international, but they will have to battle with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham – who are also interested in him – to bring him to Old Trafford.

KEVIN STROOTMAN – PSV EINDHOVEN (MIDFIELDER)

Sir Alex Ferguson is said to be interested in the the Dutch midfielder who has been dubbed as the ‘new Roy Keane’ because of his combative style of football. With the future of Darren Fletcher uncertain and with number of injury prone players in the squad, Strootman could be the answer to all of Ferguson’s problems. The PSV star has attracted a lot of interest because of his impressive performances over last couple of years and was also a part of the Dutch squad in Poland/Ukraine. The £15m rated Dutchman, who can also play as a holding midfielder, would no doubt strengthen the United midfield.

JAMES RODRIGUEZ – FC PORTO (MIDFIELDER)

The young Colombian is another player linked with a move to Old Trafford many times in the last couple of months. The 21-year-old had an impressive last season in the Portuguese league with FC Porto and has attracted interested from a host of Premier League clubs. With the future of Nani doubtful, Rodriguez could be a great addition to squad but it looks highly unlike that United and Sir Alex Ferguson would be ready to pay around £30m for the midfielder who has been dubbed the ‘new Cristiano Ronaldo’.

LUCAS MOURA – SAO PAULO (MIDFIELDER)

Lucas Moura is one of the most talented youngsters and the most hottest property in world football. The 19-year-old Brazilian has attracted interested from almost every top club in Europe and Manchester United are said to be one of them. According to the latest gossip columns, United have sent a delegation to Brazil to convince the £35m rated Brazil international – who has already been capped 13 times by his country – and his family about a move to Old Trafford, where he will join his fellow compatriots – Anderson, Rafael and Fabio.

MOUSSA DEMBELE – FULHAM (MIDFIELDER)

Dembele has had a successful time, so far, at Craven Cottage since joining Fulham in 2010. The forward who scored 24 times for AZ Alkmaar, has adapted very well to a midfield role in the Fulham team and was very impressive in the previous season. Dembele has just a year left on his contract and is in no hurry to extend it because of interest from several big Premier League sides like United and Chelsea. Some papers reported that the Reds Devils had an offer for the Belgium international rejected by Fulham over the weekend.

IKER MUNIAIN – ATHLETIC BILBAO (STRIKER)

Iker Muniain is another teenager who is on the Manchester United shopping list. The 19-year-old Spaniard caught Ferguson’s eye after he played an important role in knocking the Red Devils out of the Europa League last season. The versatile striker, who can play upfront or on the wings or just behind the striker in the midfield, scored the winner in the first leg and impressed in the second leg in Spain. The Bilbao forward, who made his international debut this year, is rated around £25m and would no doubt be great signing for the team.

ROBIN VAN PERSIE – ARSENAL (STRIKER)

Along with Juventus and Manchester City, United are also interested in signing the Arsenal skipper – Robin van Persie, who has said that he won’t be signing a new deal at the Emirates Stadium. Van Persie was in some outstanding goal scoring form last season and ended the league season as the Premier League’s top goal scorer with 30 goals. With Michael Owen having already left and Dimitar Berbatov expected to leave, there is place for another striker in the squad and Van Persie will be an outstanding option. The Rooney-Van Persie combination up front will be just too deadly to deal with for any team. With just one year left on the 28-year-old’s contract, the Gunners are expected to cash in on the forward this summer and an offer around £16m-£20m may well be enough.

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI – BORUSSIA DORTMUND (STRIKER)

The Poland international, who scored the opening goal of the UEFA EURO 2012, is another Dortmund player to be linked with a move to United this summer. Lewandowski has had an incredible past 12 months and has scored 30 goals including a hat-trick in the 5-2 win over Bayern Munich in the German Cup final. The striker has just two years left on his contract and has attracted interest from many Premier League clubs including Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.

Predicting Czech Republic v Poland And Greece v Russia

With the second round of group matches done and last round to be played over four days, 14 teams have a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals with just 8 places are up for grabs, while two teams – Sweden and Republic of Ireland – are already out.

Today we predict the outcome of the matches in the Group A, where all fours teams – Poland, Czech Republic, Russia and Greece have a chance to make it through to the next round. The two matches will be played simultaneously, co-hosts Poland will take on Czech Republic in Wroclaw, while inform Russia will battle out Greece in Warsaw.

Date – 16th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Prediction – Czech Republic are the favourites going into this match against the co-hosts Poland, as a draw may be enough for them to qualify, if Russia beat Greece in the other match, but for Poland they have to win today or else they are out. With so much at stake in this game, the teams will be cautious in the opening 15-20 minutes but will start playing their game once they settle in. Poland will have to be aware of the early threat of the Czech Republic, as they can score some early goals as they did against Greece. While, on the other, the Czechs will have to keep Robert Lewandowski under control or else he could just end their hopes in the tournament. Czech Republic will start the game well and will settled quicker than the co-hosts. Vaclav Pilar, who has scored in both of their matches, will give them the lead early on after a brilliant pass by skipper Tomas Rosicky. The goal will make Poland attack more and Lewandowski will equalise just before half time. The Poles will come out and dominate the game after the interval. Petr Cech, who has conceded five goals so far, will be tested a lot in the second half and will have to be at his best to deny the co-hosts. The Poles will continue to control the game and with less than 10 minutes remaining on the watch, the Poland skipper Jakub Blaszczykowski, who scored the stunner against Russia, will score the most important goal in his life – the goal that will take his side through to the quarter-finals.

Predicted Final Score – Czech Republic  1-2 Poland (Pilar ; Lewandowksi, Blaszczykowski)

Date – 16th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – National Stadium, Warsaw

Prediction – Having won the first two games, a draw will be enough for Russia to qualify but they wont take this match lightly as they know how important momentum is in such tournaments. Greece, on the other hand, need a win to qualify, while draw or a defeat will knock them out of the competition. Russians are the favourites to win the game, but the Greeks will be the one who will be going for the win more than the Russians. Greece will start with a very attacking formation and will go to attack from the first minute, but the Russians will do what they are best at – hitting teams on the break. Arsahvin will break and setup again for Alan Dzagoev – who has been in fine form in this competition – to score his fourth goal of the tournament. Again the Greeks would come and attack and again the Russian will hit them on the break and this time it will be the skipper himself to get his name on the scoresheet. Dimitris Salpingidis will get one back for the UEFA EURO 2004 winners in the second half but it would be just a mere consolation, as substitute Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has misfired in both the matches so far, will finally score his first goal and get monkey off his back. A win will mean Russia qualify as group winners and will face the second best team in Group B, while Greece are out with Poland qualifying as the second best team in Group A and will most like face Germany in the quarter-finals.

Predicted Final Score – Greece 1-3 Russia (Salpingidis ; Dzagoev, Arshavin, Kerzhakov)

Predicting Greece v Czech Republic And Poland v Russia

The first round of group matches is over and yesterday we saw the England and France game ending as expected in a 1-1 draw, and later Andriy Shevchenko headed in two goals to help Ukraine register a surprising victory over Sweden. Today, it’s time for round two, as we see the teams from Group A back in action.

The first match of today sees Greece – who drew against co-hosts Poland in the opening game of the tournament – take on Czech Republic – who were thrashed by Russia in their opening game – in Wroclaw, while co-hosts Poland take on the inform Russians in the second match of today in Warsaw.

Date – 12th June, 19:00 GMT

Stadium – Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Prediction – Greece had a chance to win their first game against Poland but they did really well to comeback from a goal down and a man down to earn a vital point. Today they face Czech Republic who were mercilessly torn apart by Russia in their first game. This is an important match for both the teams as a win for either team would mean a lot. Expect this game to be an open one with both teams going for the win. There would be end to end football with both teams attacking from the start and the match would be like yesterday’s Ukraine v Sweden game. Skipper Giorgos Karagounis – who missed the penalty against Poland – will give his team the lead before Michal Kadlec heads in the equaliser just before half time. After the interval, the Czechs will go on the offensive and score the second through Vaclav Pilar after some good work by skipper Tomas Rosicky. Greece would attack with all guns firing and in the end they will get their equaliser in the dying moments of the game and it would be Georgios Samaras to do so. The game will end with in draw, a fair result in the end.

Predicted Final Score – Greece 2-2 Czech Republic (Karagounis, Samaras ; Kadlec, Pilar)

Date – 12th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – National Stadium, Warsaw

Prediction – Poland missed a chance to win the opening game of the tournament, after they had taken an early lead and their opponents were a man down for more than a half, but in the end they were lucky to get a point from that game. On the other hand, the Russian were inform against the Czechs and just tore them apart scoring four goals. Expect this game to be another end-to-end affair with both teams going for all the three points. Russians will have their attacking football, while the co-hosts Poland will have home support behind their back. Russian skipper Andrey Arshavin, who was inspirational in the first game, will give his side the lead in the first fifteen minutes, only for Robert Lewandowski to equalise before half time. Russia will come out and dominate the game in the second half and will soon get their second goal through the inform Alan Dzagoev. Poland will then go on the offence in search for the equaliser but the Russians will hit them on the counter and Arshavin will get his second of the game and wrap up the game for his country. A deserved win for Russia, while the co-hosts face Czech Republic in the final group game, with nothing less than a win needed.

Predicted Final Score – Poland 1-3 Russia (Lewandowski ; Arshavin, Dzagoev, Arshavin)

Predicting Poland v Greece And Russia v Czech Republic

As the countdown of the UEFA EURO 2012 reaches it final hours, everyone across the globe will be busy predicting it all – from the group matches to the quarter-finals and the semi-finals to the finals itself.

Today, we predict first two games of the tournament, that are, co-hosts Poland taking on UEFA EURO 2004 winners Greece in the opening game at the National Stadium in Warsaw, followed by the match between Russia and Czech Republic at Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw.

Date & Time – 8th June 2011; 19:00 GMT

Stadium – National Stadium, Warsaw

Prediction – In the opening match of the tournament, the co-hosts, Poland – with the home support behind them – will begin the match full of passion and energy. The Red and Whites will go all guns blazing with Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski as the main threat in front of goal. On the other hand, the Greeks – who have conceded the least number of goals during qualification – will defend for most of the game and try and hit the co-hosts on the breaks. Poland will eventually take the lead in the second half, thanks to the inform Dortmund striker and will go on to win the game 1-0. A perfect start for the co-hosts.

Predicted Final Score – Poland 1-0 Greece (Lewandowski)

Date & Time – 8th June 2011; 21:45 GMT

Stadium – Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Prediction – Russia are the favourites to progress from this group and today will take a step closer to that after winning their first game against the Czech Republic. The Russians will dominate the game and the young CSKA Moscow playmaker, Alan Dzagoev will impress everyone with his skills and passing. Andrey Arshavin – who has been out of form for Arsenal this season – will open the scoring in the first half and then the former Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko will wrap up all the three points in the second half. Chelsea’s Champions League hero and the Czech keeper – Petr Cech will have a busy evening in goal.

Predicted Final Score – Russia 2-0 Czech Republic (Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko)

UEFA EURO 2012 Team Preview – Poland

Population 38.5 million Area 312,685km2 Capital Warsaw Currency Zloty Official Language Polish

FOOTBALL FACTFILE

Football Asocciation Polski Związek Piłki Nożnej (PZPN) Official Site http://www.pzpn.pl Year of formation 1919 Euro Ranking 39 World Ranking 65 National Stadium National Stadium, Warsaw Well-known club sides Wisla Krakow, Lech Poznan, Legia Warsaw Leading goalscorers Wlodzimierz Lubanski (48), Gregorz Lato (45), Kazimierz Deyna (41) Most capped players Michal Zewlakow (102), Grzegorz Lato (100), Kazimierz Deyna (97) European Championship finals attended 2008 Best European Championship performance Group Stage 2008 Playing Record in European Championship P93 W38 D25 L30 Odds of winning UEFA EURO 2012 66/1

JOURNEY TO POLAND/UKRAINE

On June 8 2012, Poland will open the 14th European Championship in the Warsaw National Stadium against Greece, in front of nearly 60,000 fervent home supporters. The lowest-ranked team in the tournament – 33rd in Europe and 68th in the world, behind Panama and the Cape Verde islands and Uzbekistan – Polland will desperately want to give a good account of themselves against the 2004 champions, who will also find it difficult to advance from Group A.

Naturally, being the co-hosts, Poland have not had to qualify and thus have not experienced a competitive match for some time. Various friendlies against opposition from all over the globe paint a pretty scattered picture: they have beaten Ivory Coast and Argentina, held Germany to a draw, but lost to Lithunia and Italy.

“We have made mistakes,” said head coach Franciszek Smuda during a recent rallying call, “but that happenings in friendlies – we will only be 100% ready in May 2012. We’ve met big team and, in most cases we didnt feel inferior. The players gained belief that they can perform during the finals. We are heading in the right direction.”

Poland were not always the relative football minnows that they are today. They reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1974 and 1982 thanks to the exploitds of Grzegorz Lato and Zbigniew Boniek. Howerer, Austria/Switzerland in 2008 was their first appearance at a European Championship finals and they finished bottom of their group.

The current Polish team’s main strength is that they are young full of beans and very eager to impress. They style of counter-attacking football may leave the more ageing teams flat-footed and in Robert Lewandowski they have a genuine goal-scoring threat. A win UEFA EURO 2012’s opening match may see them through to the quater-finals, any further, though, and things are likely to become unstuck.

HOW THEY GOT THERE

Qualified as hosts.

HOME AND AWAY KITS

GROUP FIXTURES – GROUP A

Friday, 08/06 – Poland v Greece (Warsaw, 17:00)
Tuesday, 12/06 – Poland v Russia (Warsaw, 19:45)
Saturday, 16/06 – Czech Republic v Poland (Wroclaw, 19:45)

FINAL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczęsny (Arsenal FC), Przemysław Tytoń (PSV Eindhoven), Grzegorz Sandomierski (KRC Genk).

Defenders: Sebastian Boenisch (SV Werder Bremen), Marcin Kamiński (KKS Lech Poznań), Damien Perquis (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Łukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Marcin Wasilewski (RSC Anderlecht), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Legia Warszawa), Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (KKS Lech Poznań).

Midfielders: Jakub Błaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Dariusz Dudka (AJ Auxerre), Kamil Grosicki (Sivasspor), Adam Matuszczyk (Fortuna Düsseldorf 1895), Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor AŞ), Rafal Murawski (KKS Lech Poznań), Eugen Polanski (1. FSV Mainz), Ludovic Obraniak (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Maciej Rybus (FC Terek Grozny), Rafał Wolski (Legia Warszawa).

Forwards: Paweł Brożek (Celtic FC), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund), Artur Sobiech (Hannover 96).

THE CAPTAIN – JAKUB BLASZCZYKOWSKI

Jakub Blaszczykowski or ‘Kuba’ as he is referred in the Bundesliga, is a fairly young national team captain at 26, but he is a commanding presence in the middle of the park nevertheless. He was voted Polish Football of the Year in 2008 and 20120, and was also voted the Borussia Dortmund Player of the Year by the fans in 2008, ahead of Neven Subotic and Alexander Frei.

THE KEEPER – WOJCIECH SZCZENSY

Wojciech Szczesny has gently ousted his countryman Lukasz Fabianski from the number one jersey at Arsenal and a series of steady performances have solidified his stats as the Gunners’ main man between the sticks. He is only 22, has tremendous agility and awereness, and a brutish command of his area for someone so young. You just hope his lack of experience doesn’t cost him this summer.

STAR MAN – ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

After craving out a regular starting place alongside his captain, Jakub Blaszczykowski, in the title-winning Borussia Dortmund side of 2010-11, Robert Lewandowski is the ner darling of Polish football. A 23-year-old forward with genuine eye for chance, Lewandowski represents Poland’s chief goal threat on home soil this summer. In the 2-2 friendly draw with Germany in September last year his instinctive, 55th-minute opener gave an indication of his predatory potential. His current international scoring record is very decent, goal every three games, but he’ll need to better that for success in the finals.

THE MANAGER – FRANCISZEK SMUDA

Franciszek Smuda spent most of his playing career in the MLS, but returned to his home country after a 16-year hiatus in 1993 to coach Stal Mielec. He then led Widzew Lodz to two consecutive domestic titles and into the Champions League, and also win the title with Wisla Krakow and the Polish Cup with Lech Poznan. Was asked to take the reins of the national team after their faliure to qualify for the World Cup 2010 and has bravelu put his faith in the young Borussia Dortmund contingent.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTION

Quarter-Finals – The White Eagles will hope that home advantage will drive them on, and as we have seen with previous hosts, support can act as the clichéd 12th man. If Lewandowski can keep up his fine form and others step up to the plate, a second round finish is not beyond them.