Co-hosts Poland enter the European Championships with a sense of optimism, despite being the lowest ranked team in the tournament according to official Fifa rankings. The competition will be the 9th major tournament that the nation has participated in, although they have only previously qualified for the European Championships once in the past.
The country’s prior effort in the tournament ended prematurely, failing to emerge from the group stage with a lacklustre point condemning them to bottom place in the group. Four years on and Franciszek Smuda is in charge, taking on from Leo Beenhakker left off; attempting to make Poland a formidable force.
When Smuda took over in 2009 he promised to play ‘offensive and attractive’ football. Despite an ill-fated winless run of eight games in 2010, his promise came into effect throughout 2011, picking up some impressive results. The first notable one under Smuda was a 2-1 victory over an untried Argentina side without key figures such as Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuian; however the South American’s experimentation with their starting line-up didn’t take the shine off the outcome for the Poles. The most exciting performance under Smuda so far ended in a 2-2 draw against a tough Germany side, where Poland were on top for much of the game. It took a last-gasp, injury time equaliser from substitute Cacau to level the score for the Germans and crush the dreams of the joyous Poland supporters.
As hosts, the Poles will compete in the first game of the Euro’s coming up against a Greece side unbeaten in 10 competitive international matches. Poland will be aiming for their first ever win in the European Championships, although the last time these two teams met, in a friendly in 2011, the result was a 0-0 bore draw. Arguably, Poland have been drawn into a strong group, featuring the aforementioned 2004 European Championship winners Greece, 2008’s surprise package semi-finalists Russia and Czech Republic, who have reached both the final and semi finals in the past, falling at the final hurdle in 1996.
But as the Euro’s draw closer, Poland fans must be feeling more and more confident. Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski will hope to provide the Poles with a massive boost this time around, after missing out on their Euro 2008 campaign through injury. His fellow Borussia Dortmund stars Lukasz Piszczek and Bundesliga Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski are also expected to standout throughout the tournament after performing consistently well throughout their club’s domestic success; with Lewandowski expected to provide plenty of goals. And if the team’s attractive football does land them into trouble, young Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will be eager to impress as he done throughout the Premier League season.
Franciszek Smuda’s team certainly have enough quality to surpass the expectations of pundits, and as co-hosts they have the advantage of playing in familiar locations. It’s upto Smuda to get the best out of his squad now. As the saying goes; the ball is in their court.
One to watch – Robert Lewandowski: All eyes will undoubtedly be focused on the 23 year old Borussia Dortmund hitman following his impressive season, racking up 30 goals in all competitions for the German double winners and winning the 2011-2012 Bundesliga Player of the Year. Lewandowski is only 7 goals away from being the joint 10th all time top goalscorer for his country.
Piszcek – Perquis – Wasilewski – Wawrzyniak
Dudka – Mierzejewski
Blaszczykowski – Polanski – Obraniak
Check out the Euro 2012 odds and get some tips on the European Championships betting.