Poland World Cup 2018 squad and team guide as Robert Lewandowski looks to carry on from qualifying

Matt Jones 10/06/2018
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For a nation that has such a rich World Cup tradition woven into its core, Poland’s recent performances or lack thereof at the game’s blue riband event has bordered on shameful.

Third-place finishes were recorded in the space of three editions not all that long ago, with Grzegorz Lato’s seven goals leading the 1974 tournament in Germany, where defender Wladyslaw Zmuda was named best young player.

Eight years later in Spain, the Eagles soared into the semi-finals – eclipsing eventual champions Italy in the tournament’s initial group phase before having their wings clipped by a vengeful Azzurri in the last four. But this Polish side is very different to their forefathers.

They have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006, having packed their bags early in both Korea and Japan four years previously and then Germany. But they certainly made an impression reaching Russia, particularly Robert Lewandowski, who scored a UEFA leading 16 goals.

Poland qualified five points in front of Denmark in Group E, recording the sixth-most points (25) and netting the fifth-most goals (28) in Europe. Key to that tally was Bayern Munich behemoth Lewandowski, who bagged a whopping 57 per cent of Poland’s goals.

It’s been a restless season for ‘Lewa’, with continued speculation over a possible move to Real Madrid and the firing of his long-time agent, Cezary Kucharski.

He reached 150 Bayern goals, entered the Bundesliga’s top-10 goalscorers ever and was voted Poland’s Footballer of the Year for the seventh time in a row, so it’s not all bad.

Lewandowski aside, coach Adam Nawalka has other talents to call upon, like Piotr Zielinski who’s had a growing impact at Napoli, and a fresh Grzegorz Krychowiak to anchor their midfield after being underused by relegated West Brom following a loan move from Paris Saint-Germain.

The real test will be whether Nawalka can find more creative solutions when going forward as opponents have become adept at dealing with hopeful long balls up to Lewandowski.

KEY PLAYER

Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski 4

Not many players carry the hopes of a nation more singularly than Lewandowski. Perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo, but even he as an all-star support cast. But having entered the Bundesliga’s top-10 goalscorers of alltime and passing legend Lubanski’s mark of most goals for Poland, pressure isn’t a word you’d imagine Lewandowski is afraid of.

COACH

Adam Nawalka

Adam Nawalka

Three defeats in their last 25 competitive games, and those coming against Germany, Portugal in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals and admittedly a 4-0 hammering at the hands of group rivals Denmark in qualifying, is decent. Nawalka has lost just eight times in 45 matches.

CAPTAIN

Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski 5

He spearheads the side and leads with a reputation as one of the most feared forwards on the planet. Has indicated a desire to leave Bayern Munich in the summer and placing himself in the shop window will no doubt be to the betterment of Poland’s chances of progressing out of the group.

YOUNG STAR

Karol Linetty

Karol Linetty

Emerged during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and has become a key building block for the future. The Sampdoria dynamo is an all-round midfielder, but is more dangerous in an attacking role and will be given the task of sparking Polish attacks if given a prominent role.

KEY FACTS AND STATS

– Grzegorz Lato is the only polish player to have won the golden boot at the world cup. he found the net seven times as poland went on to finish third in the 1974 tournament, only losing to eventual winners West Germany.

– Poland beat two-time defending champions Hungary to win the gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Germany

FIFA Rating

78 DEF 78 MID 83 ATT

World Cups competed at

8 (First in 1938)

World Cup record

P31, W15, D5, L11

Best finish

Third place (1974 & 1982)

Qualification record

P10, W8, D1, L1

World ranking

10

SQUAD

Poland 1

Goalkeepers: B. Bialkowski (Ipswich), L. Fabianski (Swansea City), W. Szczesny (Juventus).

Defenders: J. Bednarek (Southampton), B. Bereszynski (Sampdoria), T. Cionek (SPAL), K. Glik (AS Monaco), A. Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warszawa), M. Pazdan (Legia Warszawa), L. Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund).

Midfielders: J. Blaszczykowski (Wolfsburg), J. Goralski (Ludogorets Razgrad), K. Grosicki (Hull City), G. Krychowiak (West Bromwich), R. Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze), K. Linetty (Sampdoria), S. Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), M. Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow), P. Zielinski (Napoli).

Forwards: D. Kownacki (Sampdoria), R. Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), A. Milik (Napoli), L. Teodorczyk (Anderlecht)

VERDICT

With Lewandowski at the tip, Poland are capable of opening up bigger teams, and would be a dangerous prospect in the knockout stages.

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Spain before Tunisia tune-up.

World Cup 2018 is now just a matter of days away and several major contenders have already landed in Russia after they completed their final warm-up matches.

But how are they shaping up? Which players are in form and will the head coaches be forced into any last-minute tactical tweaks?

Here, we review where Spain find themselves ahead of Friday’s Group B opener against Portugal at Fisht Stadium:

FRIENDLY RESULTS

A 1-1 draw against Switzerland to start the month contained the worrying sight of Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea uncharacteristically fumbling for AC Milan left-back Ricardo Rodriguez’s leveller. Their friendly commitments wound up with Saturday’s slender 1-0 victory against Tunisia, courtesy of a late goal from Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas.

WHO IS IN FORM AND WHO IS IN A SLUMP?

Real Sociedad flyer Alvaro Odriozola’s rocket against the Swiss looked to have ended worries about Real Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal’s fitness. But a slip-up against the Tunisians would have been punished by Cristiano Ronaldo in Friday’s Group B opener versus Portugal. Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul will be frustrated by just 35 minutes of action.

TACTICAL TWEAKS

Head coach Julen Lopetegui appears convinced by the merits of his 4-2-3-1 formation. Within this, Nacho’s superior defensive acumen should see him get the nod as Carvajal recuperates for at least the first two games. Up top, it is a three-way battle between Atletico’s Diego Costa, Aspas and Valencia’s Rodrigo. Barcelona veteran Andres Iniesta should hold on at left wing.

BURNING QUESTION

Spain’s pass masters represent an orchestra in full sync – that is until you reach centre forward. Lopetegui started Costa versus the Swiss, but his heavy metal approach jarred with the aesthetes that surrounded him. Even though Aspas came off the bench to score against Tunisia, expect that game’s starter – Rodrigo – to get the nod this week.

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Germany v Saudi Arabia.

World Cup 2018 is now just a matter of days away and several major contenders have already landed in Russia after they completed their final warm-up matches.

But how are they shaping up? Which players are in form and will the head coaches be forced into any last-minute tactical tweaks?

Here, we review where Germany find themselves ahead of Sunday’s Group F-opener against Mexico at Luzhniki Stadium:

FRIENDLY RESULTS

The World Cup holders roared to a perfect 10 wins from 10 qualifiers, yet they headed into Friday’s final warm-up against Saudi Arabia on the back of a five-match winless streak. This followed the 2-1 loss at neighbours Austria on June 2. Unsurprisingly, the Saudis were downed 2-1. But Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos bemoaned their sloppy play at BayArena.

WHO IS IN FORM AND WHO IS IN A SLUMP?

RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner appears to have ended the debate about whether he or Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller should start up top in the 4-2-3-1 formation. His predatory goal against the Saudis should have sealed his starting spot, with Muller on the right. A nagging knee injury for Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil remains a worry.

TACTICAL TWEAKS

Germany appear a settled outfit. Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer started both this month’s friendlies after an injury ravaged 2017/18. At centre-back, head coach Joachim Low has given Niklas Sule opportunities against both Austria and the Saudis to break up the Mats Hummels-Jerome Boateng axis he also disrupted at club level during 2017/18.

BURNING QUESTION

The only nagging doubt for Low ahead of Sunday’s kick-off in Group F against Mexico will be how his injured contingent holds up when the serious action begins. Neuer got 135 minutes under his belt, but saw Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen save a penalty against the Saudis. Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus filled in well for Ozil on Friday in a central role.

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