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