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Poland Euro 2020 preview: Key players, strengths, weaknesses and expectations

Max Cooper
Jun 7, 2021, 10:00 AM GMT+1
The main man
The main man / PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images
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Poland are one of the eternal underdogs of European football.

The nation has produced some top quality players over the years, and they are often expected to pull off a few shocks when it comes to tournament time. That has rarely been the case, however.

The country suffered the embarrassment of finishing bottom of their group at Euro 2012, in a year when Poland was in fact joint-hosting the competition. They did fare much better in 2016, reaching the quarter-finals and only losing out to eventual winners Portugal on penalties.

That disappointment is one they'll be hoping to banish this summer when, powered by superstar Robert Lewandowski, take on Slovakia, Spain and Sweden in Group E at Euro 2020.

Here's a look at what to expect from Poland.

Route to Euro 2020

Arkadiusz Milik, Robert Lewandowski
Poland have a lot of attacking talent / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Poland dominated qualifying Group G, topping the table with a whopping 25 points from a possible 30 on offer. The winners claimed eight victories over the course of the qualification process, doing very professional jobs from start to finish.

They began with a crucial 1-0 victory over eventual second-placed Austria, and relied on the attacking talents of Krzysztof Piatek, Arkadiusz Milik and of course, Lewandowski. The latter finished as the nation's top scorer over the 10 matches, hitting six goals.

This routine success was flipped on its head in January 2021 however, when coach Zbigniew Boniek was sacked, following a breakdown in relationship with Lewandowski, and Paulo Sousa was appointed in his place.

Sousa has only had a couple of international breaks to get to know his players, although his game plan should be pretty simple: get the ball into the box and feed Lewandowski.

Strengths

Robert Lewandowski
One big strength / PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

This really is a golden era for Polish strikers. Poland boast the best number nine in world football in Lewandowski, and any team which can take to the field with that quality of forward in their ranks is in with a shout of winning a football match.

Behind him, Milik is there to compete for the second striking spot and at least he holds some serious European pedigree.

Other than the attacking riches, Poland are also blessed between the sticks. Wojciech Szczesny has stepped up to become one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A over recent years, while Lukasz Fabianski has been a Premier League regular for almost a decade. Not bad competition for places.

At both ends of the pitch then, there is reason to be hopeful.

Weaknesses

FBL-WC-2022-EUR-QUALIFERS-POL-AND
Sousa must deliver / JANEK SKARZYNSKI/Getty Images

It's not easy to get your ideas across as an international coach when you are restricted to spending short bursts of time with your team. That has never been truer than with Sousa, who has been in the job for less than six months, and must prepare his side for an international tournament.

That could be where Poland come unstuck. In attack, there are few teams with three options as reliable as their current trio, but the quality of the backline leaves a lot to be desired. These are not elite level defenders, and so they'll have to be expertly drilled to stop the goals flying in.

Is that possible for a coach like Sousa to achieve in such a short space of time? We're not so sure. It's a good job they've got such solid goalkeepers, because they may just leak plenty of chances at the wrong end.

Players to watch

Kacper Kozlowski
One to keep an eye on / PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

We'll avoid the obvious 'greatest striker in world football' narrative, because chances are, you'll probably be watching Lewandowski anyway. So who else should you keep an eye on?

Kacper Kozlowsk, part of 90min's Our 21, i is a 17-year-old central midfielder who has already been dubbed the Polish Pogba, and hopes are high for him to enjoy a breakout tournament this summer. The teenager has made two appearances for his senior national side, and if entrusted with the keys to the midfield, could become a big name in world football over the next two months.

Poland do possess some talented central midfielders in the form of SSC Napoli star Piotr Zielinski and Leeds United man Mateusz Klich, so they should be golden in that position.

Final squad

Goalkeepers: Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus), Lukasz Skorupski (Bologna)

Defenders: Kamil Glik (Benevento), Maciej Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Jan Bednarek (Southampton), Tomasz Kedziora (Dynamo Kyiv), Pawel Dawidowicz (Hellas Verona), Michal Helik (Barnsley), Kamil Piatkowski (Rakow Czestochowa), Tymoteusz Puchacz (Lech Poznan)

Midfielders: Grzegorz Krychowiak (Lokomotiv Moscow), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli), Mateusz Klich (Leeds), Karol Linetty (Torino), Kamil Jozwiak (Derby County), Przemyslaw Frankowski (Chicago Fire), Jakub Moder (Brighton), Przemyslaw Placheta (Norwich), Kacper Kozlowski (Pogon Szczecin)

Forwards: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Marseille), Dawid Kownacki (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Jakub Swierczok (Piast Gliwice), Karol Swiderski (PAOK)

For the full list of every confirmed Euro 2020 squad, click here.

Predictions

Kamil Glik
Poland will be aiming to escape Group E / PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

For Poland, their first objective is clear: finish second in Group E. Spain are the obvious favourites to top the table, but Poland will fancy themselves to finish as the best of the rest. Boasting a striker with the quality of Lewandowski, that is always possible.

Give him the ammunition, and he can deliver knockout punches against the likes of Sweden and Slovakia, and send his nation into the knockout stages. How much further can they go? Well, anything beyond the round of 16 is a bonus.

It'd take a huge effort to sneak into the quarter-finals, but we just can't see Poland advancing any further.

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