An Outside BetPosted: June 5, 2012
The likes of Spain, Germany and the Netherlands have claimed their places as many peoples’ favourites ahead of EURO 2012, while teams such as France, Italy and Croatia have been the choices of many as the tournament’s ‘dark horses’. It is easy to disregard Poland, considering their recent history in competitions, which has seen them fail to either qualify for – or from the group stage of – every tournament since 1986 (falling in the group in the last EUROs and failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup).
But this time could be different. For starters, they are hosting the tournament, alongside Ukraine. All three of their group games will be in Poland and if they are to win the group, their only games in Ukraine would be a potential semi final and the final and if they finish second, that final would be the sole game outside of their homeland. Home advantage could prove a useful factor for them, as it has with other teams in previous years. Being at home will give the players a sense of comfort in their surroundings, in spite of their constant movement between stadiums, while they will have the majority of the ground supporting them.
On top of being at home, they have been given a very tight group, which contains them, Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic. There is not a great disparity between all four teams’ abilities, giving them a far easier chance of qualifying than if they had met other, stronger teams who had been placed outside of Pot One for the initial draw. In those three teams they have opponents who are most certainly beatable and as the fans and players alike share this view, they will go into the tournament with far more belief than if they had been drawn into a group with, for example, Germany, Portugal and France which was (a rather terrifying) possibility. With this added belief from the supporters comes a certain level of expectancy and hence pressure on the team. In hand with a realistic chance at qualification from the group, this pressure could push the team further forward.
Then there is the most important reason for their (admittedly minimal) chance of success: the fact that their team is much, much better than it has been in some time, and under the management of Franciszek Smuda, they are stronger as a team. Over the last two years, Wojciech Szczesny has emerged as first choice goalkeeper for both his club Arsenal and country. An excellent goalkeeper, he is a reliable figure who has been key in their recent defensive improvements. Borussia Dortmund right back Lukasz Piszczek and team mate and captain Jakub Blaszczkowski have a strong partnership down the right hand side, down which the majority of their attacks take place. Poland’s managing to convince Ludovic Obrainak to represent them, rather than his birth nation – France, will be very important for them. In their 4-2-3-1 he plays the classic ‘number 10’ role and is their primary playmaker, with another Dortmund man in Robert Lewandowski playing as the ‘number 9’. The striker scored 22 goals in his title-winning Bundesliga season and has added 4 in his last 8 internationals. They are strong in defence and have the ability to score goals.
In spite of their talent in certain areas they are, on the whole, a fairly unremarkable side. But in a home atmosphere, they could prove to be tough opposition, spurred on by their support. The Greek who managed to triumph at EURO 2004 were a weaker outfit than this Polish side, but used defensive solidity as their path to success. It is very unlikely that they will come away as winners but, as they say, stranger things have happened.