POLAND – Poland hoping to reach the knockout stages in Qatar

Reading Time: 4 minutes

FIFA Ranking: 26

Odds: 100-1

Previous tournaments:

Poland have appeared in eight World Cups, including the last one in Russia, but failed to qualify in 2010 and 2014. Their best performances were in 1974 and 1982 when they finished third. Poland has not got past the group stage since 1986 when they lost 4-0 to Brazil in the last 16.

How they qualified:

Poland were second in qualifying Group I behind England and secured their spot in Qatar with a 2-0 playoff win over Sweden. FIFA gave Poland a bye to the final playoff round after Russia were suspended from international soccer due to the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’.

Form guide:

Since securing qualification, Poland’s results in their subsequent Nations League games were two wins ,both against Wales a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands and three losses, including a 6-1 thrashing by Belgium in June. Striker Robert Lewandowski scored only one goal in the five of those games he played in.

Set to reach the knockout stage in Qatar

Poland will need to look beyond leading striker Robert Lewandowski if they are to break their group stage jinx and reach the knockout rounds at the World Cup in Qatar. Poland, who have been drawn in Group C alongside Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, last made the knockout phase in 1986.

They have since qualified for three more World Cups in 2002, 2006 and 2018 winning one group game and losing the other two at each of them. Poland’s best performance at a tournament in the last decade was at Euro 2016, where they reached the knockout stages from a group containing Ukraine, Northern Ireland and Germany.

They beat Switzerland in the last 16 before being eliminated by eventual champions Portugal in the quarters, but their two most recent major tournaments, the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 were disappointing as they finished bottom of their groups.

The good news for coach Czeslaw Michniewicz is that he has quality players at his disposal. The bad news is that he is still struggling to get a tune out of them ahead of his first World Cup.

Michniewicz took over in January after former coach Paulo Sousa, who masterminded Poland’s World Cup qualification campaign, unexpectedly quit to take over Brazilian side Flamengo.

The Polish Football Association bet on Michniewicz to lead the team at the World Cup after he excelled during his three years in charge of the country’s under-21 side. But the 52-year-old, who has never coached outside Poland, has struggled to get the most from talisman Lewandowski, who has appeared isolated when deployed as a lone striker in Michniewicz’s system.

Poland have three wins, three defeats and two draws under Michniewicz, a run in which Lewandowski has only managed two goals.The Barcelona forward, one of the most feared strikers in world football, has said he would prefer to play alongside another striker, and Poland’s hopes rest on him replicating his club form for his country.

If Michniewicz gives in and plays with two strikers in Qatar, Charlotte FC’s Karol Swiderski  who has scored seven goals in his last 12 games for Poland and Juventus striker Arkadiusz Milik will fight it out to be Lewandowski’s foil. Lewandowski and Milik formed a potent partnership for Poland in years past before a string of injuries derailed the latter, even ruling him out of the last Euros.

Beyond the forward line, the form of Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski will also be crucial to Poland’s success. The 28-year-old, who has played more minutes under Michniewicz than any other Poland player, is a creative force with the passing ability to unlock defences.

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is a steady presence behind a back line that includes experienced Benevento defender Kamil Glik and Aston Villa’s Jan Bednarek. Getting out of their group in Qatar would be considered a success for Poland, but a lot still depends on the team coming together under their new coach.

Team announced : 

Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Skorupski, Bartlomiej Dragowski
Jan Bednarek, Matty Cash, Bartosz Bereszynski , Kamil Glik , Robert Gumny , Artur Jedrzejczyk, Jakub Kiwior, Mateusz Wieteska, Nicola Zalewski ,Krystian Bielik , Przemyslaw Frankowski, Kamil Grosicki , Jakub Kaminski, Grzegorz Krychowiak , Michal Skoras, Damian Szymanski, Sebastian Szymanski, Piotr Zielinski , Szymon Zurkowski, Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Krzysztof Piatek and Karol Swiderski.