The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Poland

Poland National Team

poland NT

Biało-czerwoni

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Poland
Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 8-1-1
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 10th
World Cup 2014 Finish – DNQ
Russia 2018 Group H (POLAND, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)
Formation – 4-4-2 (Variable)
Strengths – High scoring attack, work rate
Weaknesses – Leaky defense
Major Threat – Robert Lewandowski, Piotr Zielinski

The Biało-czerwoni have been on the cusp on something great for a while with this generation. Russia 2018 will be another chance for them to make a long waited breakthrough. They can explode for a bucketful of goals and they have a striker who for some reason, despite consistently rubbing shoulders with the best at the highest level, never seems to be included in the conversation about the best attackers in the world. However, Poland is entering a tournament where goals can be at a premium and a squad is only as strong as its defense. How strong is their defense? They allowed more goals than any other World Cup qualifying group winner, which is not a recipe for success on the world’s biggest stage.

Are you a fan of Biało-czerwoni (The Red and Whites)? Find your original Poland Jersey from SoccerPro before the tourney starts! You can add the name of your fave Pole star to the back of your jersey (*cough cough Lewandowski fans)

Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

Poland is a 50/1 shot at winning the whole tournament, but they’ve been given a decent group to wiggle their way into the knockout stage. If this group can close up shop at the back and start scoring at a rate that is normally uncommon at the World Cup, Poland could weasel their way into the quarter-finals or beyond. PZPN will see their ranking within the top ten and will expect this group to extend their stay in Russia beyond the group.

DEFENSE:

If Poland gets bounced early or embarrassed in the knockout stage, then there won’t be any way that we won’t have seen this issue coming. Poland’s scoring is impressive, but their defense is abysmal, and they’re entering into a tournament where it usually takes squads a few rounds before they play freely enough to start putting the ball in the back of the net. During qualifying, the only teams that didn’t allow more goals in the group were Armenia and Kazakhstan. Add in the fact that Poland was only able to keep two clean sheets throughout the entirety of the qualifying and things begin to look really tricky for Coach Adam Nawałka and his team.

Goalkeeping is a major strength for the Poles and they’re one of few sides who head into Russia ’18 with a major fight for the #1 spot between a bunch of guys who could start for most of the other World Cup sides. Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski both are viable options for the starting role. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to go with either, but our money would be on Szczesny despite Fabianski getting the nod more often than not during qualifying.

The biggest issue for Poland’s defense heading into the tournament has been the loss of Kamil Glik of AS Monaco. The loss of Glik could actually cause Poland to shift into a back four (which was used a lot of in the qualifiers but Coach Nawałka has experimented a lot with a back 3 recently), which means the defense will probably be made up of Machal Pazdan and Artur Jedrzejczyk as the central defensive pairing, Maciej Rybus as the left-sided defender, and Lukasz Piszczek as the right back. It’s possible that Poland could opt for Thiago Cionek if they want to shore up the middle of the defense if they’re trying to hold on to a lead, but Cionek is the absolute definition of a yellow card magnet.

The two other defenders on the way to Russia are Jan Bednarek and Bartosz Bereszynski. Neither has been used extensively during the build-up to the World Cup, but Bereszynski will be used if there needs to be any extra cover provided out wide. Bednarek would be a long shot to ever make it on the pitch during the fixtures in Russia, but Poland’s defense obviously needs a bit of shifting around after their issues in qualifying. It wouldn’t be shocking to see serious changes, especially with Glik out of the picture.

MIDFIELD:

The change in defense might shift up the midfield, but it’s quite likely that they’ll stick with a front three, hope the wide defenders will provide the width, and the midfield could shift to a three. Poland’s options are a going to be interesting to see considering how much Glik’s injury and their defensive pains will change them. We’d look for either Linetty or Maczynksi to sit deep and shield the midfield, but shifting to a back four should free up the midfield for a few more attacking players than they might have used before. Blaszczykowski, Grosicki, Krychowiak, and Zielinski will all play off of Lewandowski and act as the second layer of attack for Poland.

There’s a reason this group tallied a ton of goals in qualifying, and each member of the Polish midfield is more than capable of finding the back of the net. While not all of them have seen their club form translate over to the national team, but Grosicki and Blaszczykowski have more impressive goal returns than some of the other strikers that are heading to Russia. If Lewy isn’t firing up top, look for Grosicki and Blaszczykowski to be key in pushing Poland out of the group stage.

Much like the rest of the Poland team, the drop of between the starting group and the bench is massive, both in terms of talent and experience. Midfielders Jacek Goralski and Rafal Kurzawa have only played three times for the national team, and they’ll only find themselves playing in Russia if Poland is looking to groom the future of their midfield. Although, it wouldn’t be shocking if even the future Poland midfield didn’t include these two.

Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski

STRIKERS:

Lewandowski will be leading the line and we probably won’t see any of the other striking options unless Poland is pushing for a late goal or opts for a slightly different look than what we’ve seen from them in the past. Lewandowski has been the star forward for Bayern Munich for quite some time now, but he still feels a bit underrated. Possessing the ability to score from crosses and balls over the top, it might be his impressive ability to hold up play while Poland attempts to get more players in attacking positions that Poland values most.

If things aren’t going well, look for Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik to come off the bench to add even more attacking threat for the squad. He was one of the few Polish strikers to actually score in qualifying, but the midfielders still were utilized more in attack than Poland’s striking subs especially considering Milik only scored once and has yet to net for Poland in 2018.

All of this translates to a massive dependence on Lewandowski to other provide enough cushion to win games 3-2 or 2-1, as the Polish defense rarely keeps a clean sheet. If Lewandowski can’t find his scoring form in Russia, it might be a short stay for this Poland squad. However, if Lewy catches fire, this would be a team that nobody would want to face.

GAME by GAME (v Senegal, v Colombia, v Japan)

*Keys to Senegal Game: The first game for Poland sees them hit the ground running and giving us the highest scoring first game of the tournament. Sadly, this game won’t provide the type of springboard they need before they face off against Colombia, but it will give them a huge three points in order to find themselves advancing from the group. Watch this game propel Lewandowski to Real Madrid rumors back into the spotlight (and remind us of how poor the Polish defense is).
Prediction: Lewandowski gets eyes for the golden boot after scoring a hat-trick in this game on the way to a 5-2 win.

*Keys to Colombia Game: Poland gets this team after possibly using Senegal as a stepping stone to World Cup success. However, Los Cafeteros won’t be a good test for Poland’s questionable defense, and going up against this level of attack this early in the tournament could leave Poland exposed and vulnerable. Look for a million clips of Lewandowski looking frustrated and a constant discussion by the commentators about which keeper Poland should be allowing to start.
Prediction: Colombia smacks Poland in the nose with a 3-0 win

*Keys to Japan Game: Poland takes massive advantage of a short defense (only one player stands over six feet) and starts crossing balls like the squad is running practice drills. However, two quick goals and the thought that they’re about to survive the group causes them to concede a cheap goal to Japan and force some extremely nervy final moments for Poland as they cling to group success.
Prediction: Poland wins 2-1 after conceding to a free-kick

poland 23

Poland WC Squad

Here’s the Polish Roster for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich Town), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), and Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus)

DEFENDERS (7): Jan Bednarek (Southampton), Bartosz Bereszynski (UC Sampdoria), Thiago Cionek (SPAL Ferrara), Kamil Glik (AS Monaco), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), and Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Jakub Blaszczykowski (VfL Wolfsburg), Jacek Goralski (PFC Ludogorets Razgrad), Maciej Rybus (FC Lokomotiv Moscow), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli), Karol Linetty (UC Sampdoria), Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Bromwich Albion), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), and Rafal Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze)

STRIKERS (4): Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli), Lukasz Teodorczyk (RSC Anderlect), and Dawid Kownacki (UC Sampdoria)

Piece by Andrew McCole, frequent Center Circle writer, boot prince, and never walking alone at Liverpool FC.

 

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About the author: Andrew McCole

 

If I may be so bold to condense my immense personality into two words, it would be: soccer nerd. I love everything about the beautiful game and I tend to reflect that in my writing. I suffer through Liverpool fandom and hope that they will win another title before my wife spreads my ashes at Anfield (considering I'm in my twenties, it seems somewhat likely). Although I also dabble in tennis, teaching, and coaching, most of my free-time is spent writing articles for The Center Circle! Feel free to stalk me on Google+

 

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