WARSAW, Poland. Nov 17 (AFP) — UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts Poland must make their mark against Ivory Coast.
It is the latest friendly of what has been a stuttering preparation campaign, Polish football association chief Grzegorz Lato said on Wednesday.
“The team needs to start winning, so it can gradually climb to the top,” the former star player told reporters ahead of Wednesday night’s crunch game in the western city of Poznan.
There are just 19 months to go until the 2012 edition of the European championships, which Poland will host along with neighbouring Ukraine. With both hosts qualifying automatically, they have to rely on friendlies to hone their skills.
Team manager Franciszek Smuda, who was appointed after Poland failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, is under mounting pressure after an eight-match winless streak .
Poland have won only four of their 14 games since he took charge, three of them against relatively lowly Canada, Thailand and Singapore. Their last victory was against Bulgaria, whom they beat 2-0 in March.
Their losses have included a 6-0 thrashing by Spain in June and a 3-0 defeat by Cameroon in August. Most recently, matches against the United States and Ecuador ended 2-2.
Ivory Coast, who boast an English Premier League strike-force formed by Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, look a tall order for Poland.
The Elephants currently stand 23rd in the rankings of world football’s governing body FIFA, while the White Eagles are 66th.
Smuda said he was looking for crowd-pleasing football from his side on Wednesday.
“The result? Of course it matters. But let’s just make sure we get the right results at the European championships themselves,” he said.
Home fans see Euro 2012 as a chance to revive a long-lost golden age of Polish football.
Poland won Olympic gold in 1972 and were third at the 1974 World Cup, when Lato was the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals. They took Olympic silver in 1976, and placed third again at the 1982 World Cup.
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