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.
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.
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.
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.
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)