Euro 2020 preview, Group E – Poland: Szymon Piorek explains why Poland have a new manager ahead of the Euros
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, journalist Szymon Piorek gives us his take on Poland…
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
It is hard to say what to expect from Poland. In January, five months before the Euros, the Polish FA president and a former national team legend Zbigniew Boniek unexpectedly sacked Jerzy Brzeczek, even though he qualified for the Euro 2020 and managed to stay up in UEFA Nations League’s Division A.
Explaining his decision, Boniek said that the team was not developing enough and needed a change at the helm to get the best results out of these players. It’s a fair point to make: while Poland had no difficulties qualifying for the Euros and lost only one out of ten games, many observers argued that they played boring and almost unwatchable football.
Brzeczek was subsequently replaced by the former Portugal legend and ex-QPR and Swansea manager Paulo Sousa. His start wasn’t too promising, only winning one out of the first three games against Andorra, but it very much felt like work in progress as the team adapted to a new, more attractive playing style. The confusion has somewhat lowered the expectations at home. A progression to the knockout stages would be seen as a success as fans remember that after three abysmal performances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Poland came last in the group.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
There is no doubt that the strongest point of this team is the captain and top goalscorer, Robert Lewandowski. He has just confirmed his ridiculous form in Germany’s Bundesliga, beating Gert Muller’s all-time record for most goals in a season (41).
Sousa will also feel comfortable about his goalkeepers with two equals in Juventus’s Wojciech Szczesny and West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski, who are ready to perform at the top level.
One of the promising signs about the new manager is a noticeable improvement in the team’s mental preparation as they managed to come back from 0-2 against Hungary to draw 3-3 and only narrowly missed out on a draw with England at Wembley after Harry Maguire’s goal in 85th minute.
And any weaknesses?
Some massive question marks are arising from the fact that Sousa is new to the job and hasn’t had the chance to fully work with his players to stamp his authority on the team. His changes are wholesale with a complete overhaul of the tactical setup to three at the back, and you would typically need more time to make sure your players get the new style.
The manager will also be concerned about the lack of in-form wingers with West Brom’s Kamil Grosicki falling out of favour at his club and not going to Euro 2020, which puts a question mark over his previously effective partnership with Lewandowski. Poland are yet to find someone else who could make the most of Bayern’s target man.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
Lewandowski is not only the best player in the Polish squad, but last year was named as the best in the world with FIFA The Best for 2020 award. He is the all-time top scorer for Poland with 66 goals, adding another six to his tally in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, and was equally prominent in previous qualifiers with 16 goals in the build-up to World Cup 2018 and 13 ahead of Euro 2016.
He’s just coming off yet another brilliant season at the club with his total coming to 292 goals in 327 matches for Bayern Munich, and he took the Bundesliga’s Golden Boot home again for the fifth time. An absolute legend.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
I would say the smart money is on Jakub Moder. The 22-year-old had a great year and within weeks he made a Premier League debut for Brighton and scored against England at Wembley, cementing his position as one of the best talents of his generation.
He made his debut in the national team in September last year and with two goals to his name so far, he has made quite an impression from the very start with a set of very confident showings. He’s doing well at Brighton, which snapped him from Lech Poznan for mere £6m, with Graham Potter giving him regular play time, even at left wing-back.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
Euro 2016 was one of the highest points in the recent history of Polish football after the team got through to the quarter-finals losing with the future champions, Portugal, on penalties. This was seen as a massive success, with players getting a heroes’ welcome on their return to the country.
This year’s team is different and arguably much weaker. Then-manager Adam Nawalka had two years to work with the players and shape their style to the point where they could genuinely compete with the best teams in Europe. It’s no longer the case with White and Reds not winning with any top team in recent months and suffering from defeats with the Netherlands (twice), Italy, and England.
With this team and overhaul at the top, the expectation is to get through to the knockout stages – anything beyond that would be seen as a bonus.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
I expect France to win, but the Golden Boot will go to Harry Kane.