The term ‘golden generation’ is one that emerges ahead of every major international tournament and the 2018 in Russia is no exception with that tag being applied to Poland in particular. Unfortunately this is perhaps the last chance for this particular golden generation to do themselves justice and make a significant impact on the World stage.
The likes of Lukasz Fabianski, Kamil Glik, Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blasczcykowski and Robert Lewandowski will all be in the latter stages of their career in four years at the next tournament and there is not a great deal of youth within the squad. Indeed in terms of average age Poland will be one of the oldest teams at the tournament.
With that said there are still high expectations from those at home who remain hopeful that they can come through a group containing Senegal, Colombia and Japan to reach the knockout stages. If this proves to be the case then few teams will want to face Poland in a winner takes all knockout match.
Coach – Adam Nawalka
When the former national team midfielder was appointed as head coach in 2013 there were suspicions that he was given the role as a result of his relationship with FA chief Zbigniew Boniek with whom he had played at the 1978 World Cup rather than what he had done previously as a coach.
At club level his biggest achievement was winning a domestic double with Wisla but other than that he did not stand out.
At Euro 2016 he led Poland to the last 16 and if he was to match this result this summer then it will be seen as a huge achievement.
Wojciech Szczesny, Lukas Fabianksi, Lukasz Skorupski
Michal Pazdan, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Thiago Cionek, Jan Bednarek, Kamil Glik, Lukasz Piszczek, Batrosz Bereszynski
Jacek Goralski, Karol Linnety, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kamil Grosicky, Maciej Rybus, Jakub Blasczczykowski, Slawomir Peszko, Piotr Zielinski, Rafal Kurzawa
Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, David Kownacki, Lukasz Teodorczyk
Poland are strongest in the attacking phase where they use fullbacks and wide attackers to stretch the width of the field. Here you can see how adventurous Poland are when attacking and they have committed eight players into the opposition half as they try to break through.
With a player like Robert Lewandowski as the focal point and striker to attract at least two defensive players this creates spaces and potential overload opportunities in the final third.
Here you see the effect that Lewandowski has in opening space for Zielinski in the number ten position. With both central defenders effectively pinned back by the presence of Lewandowski it creates space between the lines that Zielinski is able to occupy unopposed.
In these areas when picking up possession of the ball Zielinski will be exceptionally dangerous moving forwards.
Both wide attacking players from Poland will attack the penalty area when the opportunity arises. Here you see the run that the left sided player makes with the ball in the final third on the opposite side of the field. As he runs across the front of the defence he distracts a defensive player as Lewandowski peels off towards the back post for the ball to be clipped in to.
No surprise here. The Bayern Munich forward is a generational talent for Poland and any hopes of success will be pinned directly to his performances in Russia. He struggled at the European Championships in France two years ago but this could be the tournament that finally sees Lewandowski firmly imprint him on the World stage.
Likely to play as the lone forward Lewandowski is talented enough that he will occupy at least two opposition defenders. This in turn will create space for supporting players coming from the deep areas or from wide in to the final third.
Young Player to Watch
At 23 years of age Zielinksi is ready to take the next step forward in his career. Playing for Napoli under Maurizio Sarri the tactically astute coach was effusive in his praise for the young midfielder. Now with a change of coach at club level it is entirely possible that the midfielder will be moving on from Naples this coming season.
Linked extensively to the likes of Liverpool already the attacking midfielder has a skillset that would work extremely well in the English top flight. Quick feet and excellent balance make Zielinski extremely press resistant and he carries the ball well in central areas. His eye for a pass and timing when releasing the ball is improving and he can finish at speed.
Piotr Zielnski is definitely a player to watch this summer.
Sampdoria have developed a reputation in recent years as an excellent recruiting side. The likes of Patrick Schick and Milan Skriniar have already left the club for big money and the Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira looks like following suit this summer.
The next in line to explode may well be the 21 year old forward Dawid Kownacki. No stranger to success at a young age the forward made his first team debut and scored his first senior goal at just 16 for Lech Poznan. Now going in to his second season at Sampdoria hopes are high that he will make a significant impact this summer.
With Lewandowski firmly in place as the first choice striker Kownacki will look to make an impact from the bench in Russia.