Poland's national team pose for the picture before their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Montenegro in Warsaw.

How Poland could derail England’s World Cup dream

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On Tuesday at Wembley, the Polish national team have nothing to play for against England.

But after being eliminated from World Cup qualification following their 1-0 defeat to Ukraine on Friday, the Poles are now hell-bent on one thing: denying England qualification. Anxiety levels in the home of soccer are reaching fever pitch.

Over 18,000 Polish fans are expected to cheer on their team amongst Wembley’s 90,000, heaping more pressure on Poland to put in a performance that could scupper England’s chances of making Brazil 2014.

England know a win will seal automatic qualification, but if Poland snatch a draw or even defeat the hosts, then the Three Lions must go through the dreaded play-off round en route to next summer’s World Cup. That’s assuming Ukraine beat minnows San Marino in their final group game… which they will, by five or six. See the Group H table below for all the details.

(MORE: England’s attack delights, as Roy Hodgson ditches defensive approach)

As for Poland, their players know they must still deliver on the pitch on Tuesday, even though they can’t deliver a World Cup appearance.

“There are sure to be many Polish fans there. We want to thank them with a good game and the right result,” Polish captain Jakub Blaszczykowski said. “It doesn’t matter that we only have honour to play for. Matches at Wembley are always very important to us.”

So, let’s break down exactly how Poland can spoil the party at Wembley, as Roy Hodgson looks to lead England to their fifth-straight World Cup.

PLAYERS PRIDE

We’ve already heard from captain Blaszczykowski about how Poland intend to go out in style instead of a whimper, and plenty of others have echoed that view. His Borussia Dortmund teammate Robert Lewandowski has also stated that “we want to at least allow our supporters a little fun.” And whether they admit it or not, ruining England’s chances of reaching the big dance would be a huge feather in the cap of every Polish player. To go to Wembley and grab a point or all three would be a huge moment in the nations history. I remember going to the old Wembley back in ’99 and seeing a Paul Scholes hat trick (his final goal came courtesy of a disguised punch that looked like a header) that still upsets some Polish fans, they’d love to get some revenge.

HUGE SUPPORT

And there will certainly be plenty of fans to see that take place, if it does. As aforementioned, more than 18,000 Polish fans are expected to cram into Wembley to see their heroes. Those players could give them serious bragging rights in England for some time to come. Ever since Poland was accepted into the EU in 2004, millions of Poles have flooded into England as the Eastern European nation now has significant communities set up in every major town and city. The Polish players know that, and with a huge section of fans cheering them on inside Wembley, England are worried about the X-factor of having a crowd the size of Sporting Park cheering on the visitors.

HISTORIC RIVALS

The truth is England and Poland have been here many times before. The climax of World Cup qualifying with the fate of one of the nations still up in the air, a battle between these two often springs up a dramatic finale as to who will make the dance. Since 1966, England have faced Poland nine times at home, winning seven and drawing two and more often than not it seems as though these two soccer mad nations are drawn together in qualifying for major tournaments. All-time, the nations have met 18 times, with England winning 10, drawing seven and losing just once in Chorzitw back in 1973. That ominous record will hang heavy over the head of Poland’s players, who want to deliver one last hurrah for their passionate fans. Can they upset England and deny the Three Lions a spot in the World Cup?

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING – GROUP H (UEFA)

Played Won Points GD
England 9 5 19 +25
Ukraine 9 5 18 +16
Montenegro 9 4 15 +4
Poland 9 3 13 +8
Moldova 9 2 8 -8
San Marino 9 0 0 -45

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (L) shoots while Erik Pieters of Stoke City (R) attempts to block the shot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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  • Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
  • Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 16
  • Stoke winners of two-straight

After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.

Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.

Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United“There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”

Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia“I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”

Prediction

United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.

AFCON wrap: Results keep Group C undecided

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony controls the ball on his head during their training session at the Stade Akoakam, Oyem, Gabon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match against Congo. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.

[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]

Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo

A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.

DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.

Morocco 3-1 Togo

Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.

Saturday’s matches

Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET