World Cup 2018 Poland team profile: How they qualified, star man, World Cup record, fixtures
Poland come into the World Cup ranked 10th in the world and the country are hoping that the team will progress out of the group stage for the first time this century:
- Honours: World Cup (3rd: 1974 and 1982). OIympics (Gold 1972, Silver 1992)
- FIFA Ranking: 10th
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Poland won their qualifying group ahead of Denmark and Montenegro, winning eight matches, losing one and drawing one but it wasn't as easy as the results would suggest as they lost heavily 4-0 in Copenhagen and had a couple of lucky last gasp wins, notably Denmark and Armenia at home and Montenegro away.
In other words it was not as strong a campaign as it was before Euro 2016. The Poles exploited a loophole in the FIFA ranking to keep their points and high ranking by avoiding friendly games, which gave them a favourable group.
STAR MAN - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Robert Lewandowski is the most important player for the Polish team as a player and a talisman. He's the team's all-time top scorer and he netted a UEFA record 16 goals during qualifying, an astonishing 57% of Poland's 28 goals..
Poland's forward Robert Lewandowski reacts after he scored a goal during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Poland and Montenegro in Warsaw on October 8, 2017.Getty Images
He will arrive in Russia comparatively well-rested, following the arrival of Sandro Wagner in Munich in January to help ease his burden. After a difficult European Championships in France two years ago he blamed fatigue from his domestic season.
NEXT BIG THING - Piotr Zieliński (Napoli)
Piotr Zielinski has been linked with bigger clubs across Europe and many experts in the country are predicting big things for the talented Napoli midfielder. The 24-year-old has great technical and passing skills but in the national team he has had issues with his consistency.
Poland's midfielder Piotr Zielinski (R) shoots to score a goal during the international friendly football match between Poland and South Korea at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow, Poland on March 27, 2018.Getty Images
He has to respond well following a tough Euro 2016 and show he can be important for his country in the future.
THE COACH - Adam Nawalka
The 60-year-old played 34 matches for the Polish national team during his career, including five games at the 1978 World Cup, but injuries forced him to retire early. Well known for his work ethic and enthusiasm. He won the Polish championship with his boyhood club Wisla Krakow as both a player and manager.
Poland's cach Adam Nawalka reacts during the friendly football match Poland v Mexico at the Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, on November 13, 2017.Getty Images
He's the first manager to take Poland to both the European Championships and World Cup finals. He's not afraid of taking big decisions and giving chances to youngsters. Nawalka is a long-time admirer of Italian football and is always trying to evolve his team's tactics. After the qualifying campaign he famously changed the defensive set up to a back three.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
One golden era and the decades of disappointment. Russia will be Poland's eighth World Cup appearance. They made their World Cup bow in style in 1938 when they nearly shocked Brazil in a thriller that finished 6-5 after extra time. The golden era came in the 70s and 80s, when the Polish team won Olympic gold in 1972 and came third at the World Cups in 1974 and 1982.
In 1986 they reached the last 16 the nation will be hoping that Nawalka's men can create history in Russia like they did two years ago in France where they reached the quarter-finals. They finished bottom of their group in 2002 and 2006.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Poland face one big question mark. The team has the potential to progress out of the group but the opposition will be tricky in a competitive group. Pundits see group H as one of the most even and unpredictable groups in the tournament.
The first game against Senegal is crucial and Lewandowski's efficiency and his freshness will be the key for the Poles in their bid to make it out of the group. Further optimism comes from Arkadiusz Milik, who has returned from his second ACL injury, and will give Adam Nawalka more offensive options and more space for Lewandowski on the pitch.
- 19th June – Senegal·
- 24th June – Colombia
- 28th June – Japan