European Championship in focus: Spotlighting Poland

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Today we’re looking at the four teams in Group A, starting with one of Euro 2012’s co-hosts: Poland.

Man that matters:

Robert Lewandowski: You’ve heard the cliché “a puncher’s chance”? Lewandowski is that punch. In his second year with German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, the 23-yer-old striker won his second German title while pocketing 30 all-competition goals. Even though he can be positioned as a textbook number nine, pinning the other team’s central defenders, Lewandowski is more of an all-around forward, capable of coming back off the line to provide a creative presence.

For Poland fans, there is a subtext to Lewandowski’s emergence, an angle that can salve 12 years of hurt. In 2001, Poland-born Miroslav Klose made his debut for Germany. While Poles were left wondering why, Klose’s gone on to score 14 World Cup goals (one short of Ronaldo’s record).

Lewandowski’s capable of making Poland forget.

First-round games:

June 8: vs. Greece (Warsaw, Poland)
June 12: vs. Russia (Warsaw, Poland)
June 16: vs. Czech Republic (Warsaw, Poland)

Foursome of knowledge:

  • Along with Ukraine, Poland is hosting their first major tournament, an honor which earned them automatic qualification. They’ve only qualified for one previous final: 2004’s, where they finished 14th (out of 16). The nation’s been more successful in their other major competition, having qualified for seven World Cups (finishing third in both 1974 and 1982).
  • Only three hosts (out of 15) have failed to reach the semifinals. Belgium in 2000 along with Austria and Switzerland and 2008 all failed to make it out of their groups. Still, despite the frequency with which hosts have reached the final four, only three have ultimately won the title (Spain in 1964, Italy in 1968, France in 1984).
  • At 22 years old, Wojciech Szczesney will be the youngest starting goalkeeper at the tournament. It’s no surprise that his cap total is also the lowest amongst his peers, making only nine appearances for his national team. Szczesny has, however, served as Arsenal’s `keeper for the last two years. Given the ease with which he’s brought stability to what was a uncertain spot for the Gunners, Poland coach Franciszek Smuda will have few worries about his last line of defense.
  • If you’re looking at players’ club placement as an indication of strength, Poland’s not going to impress. Only eight of Poland’s squad are playing in Europe’s top five leagues, though three (Lewandowski, captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, and defender Lukasz Piszczek) are integral components at Dortmund.

Where they are going:

Group A is not only wide open, it’s not very good. Russia is the favorite on paper, while Greece has a pedigree of sorts (having won the 2004 tourney). Still, Poland has every reason to think they can been fan expectations and reach the quarterfinals.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczęsny (Arsenal FC), Przemysław Tytoń (PSV
Eindhoven), Grzegorz Sandomierski (KRC Genk).

Defenders: Sebastian Boenisch (SV Werder Bremen), Marcin Kamiński (KKS Lech
Poznań), Damien Perquis (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Łukasz Piszczek (Borussia
Dortmund), Marcin Wasilewski (RSC Anderlecht), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Legia
Warszawa), Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (KKS Lech Poznań).

Midfielders: Jakub Błaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Dariusz Dudka (AJ
Auxerre), Kamil Grosicki (Sivasspor), Adam Matuszczyk (Fortuna Düsseldorf
1895), Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor AŞ), Rafal Murawski (KKS Lech
Poznań), Eugen Polanski (1. FSV Mainz), Ludovic Obraniak (FC Girondins de
Bordeaux), Maciej Rybus (FC Terek Grozny), Rafał Wolski (Legia Warszawa).

Forwards: Paweł Brożek (Celtic FC), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund),
Artur Sobiech (Hannover 96).

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.