This week’s European results have been the best for Polish clubs in many years. Although it did look like it was going to be yet another disastrous season when Jagiellonia Bialystok went out meekly in the first UEFA Europa League qualifying round against unfancied Kazak outfit Irtysh Pavlodar.
At this stage last season all three clubs in the UEFA Europa League, Wisla Krakow, Ruch Chorzow and Jagiellonia Bialystok went out to mediocre opposition, leaving only Lech Poznan to carry the flag, which they did with credit.
Last Friday’s draw for the next and final qualifying rounds before the group stages has been fairly kind for the remaining Polish trio who all stand a fair chance of progressing.
Wisla’s biggest problem may be psychological because they are attempting to become the first Polish club to play in the UEFA Champions league group stage since the 1996-97 season. Back then, Widzew Lodz followed in the footsteps of Legia Warsaw who had made the group stage the previous season, and went even further to reach the Quarter Finals.
However this Apoel FC team will also present a problem not normally expected of Cypriot teams who would have been easy meat a few years ago, even for a Polish team. But nowadays, thanks to money, even previous small fry like Apoel are able to import good players from all over the world, their squad contains no less than five of the ubiquitous Brazilians. Two seasons ago the Cypriots made the Champions League in which they held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge – with Marcin Zewlakow, now with Belchatow, getting one of their goals.
In the UEFA Europa League Legia may also face a psychological barrier when they face Spartak Moscow FC because Polish clubs have a poor record against them, four defeats in four meetings. However the 9 times Russian Champions are having a moderate season by their standards and halfway through have lost touch with the leaders, in sixth place.
Slask Wroclaw have what appears to be a slightly easier route to the group stage with Romanian outfit Rapid Bucharest to overcome. Regarded as the capital’s third club, they finished fourth last season although five years ago enjoyed a good run in the old UEFA Cup, topping their group ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk and reaching the Quarter Final where they just lost out to neighbors Steau. Once again Brazilians are included in the squad, four of them here
With all the money that’s been invested, particularly into the construction of new stadiums, not just for UEFA EURO 2012, Polish football desperately needs European competition to awaken support both public and financial.
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