Poland endured a miserable Euro 2008 on their tournament debut, but there is good reason for the co-hosts to feel confident of progress this time. For a start, they could not have chosen a better group. And the team have an array of talented young players showing their worth on the biggest stages in Europe. Up front Poland boast Robert Lewandowski, the prolific Borussia Dortmund forward, and his team-mates Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lucasz Piszczek are consistent Bundesliga performers.
Ludovic Obraniak was a useful member of Lille’s title winning team in France last year and has become a regular for Bordeaux this term; his creativity will be vital. Behind them, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has shown confidence and supreme ability for one so young in the Premier League during his brief career. Though he has also committed the occasional error, Szczesny will provide a solid foundation for Poland this summer. Perhaps the biggest worry will be that the co-hosts have not played a competitive game since 2009.
In The Dugout – Franciszek Smuda
The 63-year-old has experience of winning titles in Poland with Widzew Lodz and Wisla Krakow. Also a player in the United States during his earlier career, Smuda will set up his team with Lewandowski as a threatening target man in a 4-2-3-1.
He has made Poland younger and more attractive to watch, with a high energy approach reaping dividends. But Smuda is yet to manage the country in a competitive match, having taken over in 2009, while he has been criticised for selecting players who are not Polish, such as Obraniak and Damien Perquis. In fairness, the coach is deprived of Polish-born duo Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, who have both shone for Germany over the years. Smuda will rue how strong a team he would be able to pick had they not made that choice.
Key Player – Robert Lewandowski
German Player of the Year for his exploits with league and cup winners Borussia Dortmund, the skilful forward is one of the most lethal in Europe at the moment. He recently fired a hat-trick past the Bayern Munich defence in the German Cup final and his abilities have made him a vital cog in Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp’s team. With 30 goals this season, Lewandowski comes into this tournament with the hopes of a nation on his back and in the form of his life.
View from Poland
Not much is expected of Poland despite their promise, as most of the squad is very inexperienced. Despite home backing, a last eight finish would make the nation happy and proud. Hopes were raised by a 2-1 win over Argentina recently, though the South Americans fielded an experimental line-up. The co-hosts have also drawn 2-2 with Germany in the build-up to Euro 2012, so there will be no shortage of confidence.
A young, talented team will come into this tournament with momentum from some of their best players’ exploits in Europe, and a wave of enthusiasm from the home crowd. Poland should have enough about them to get the required points to reach the knockout phase. And they could even shock one of the big boys from Group B. A semi-final place could be theirs, if they avoid the Germans in the last eight.