In less than a year Poland have gone from being rank-outsiders for UEFA EURO 2012 to possible ‘dark horses’.
Not too long ago they were grouped in with Ireland, Denmark and Greece as the least likely to win the tournament despite being joint-hosts with Ukraine. Now they find themselves alongside the likes of Czech Republic and Croatia, teams to be respected. It’s all thanks to the emergence of five or six very promising young players who are proving themselves at the highest level of European club football. Robert Lewandowski immediately comes to mind, the Borussia Dortmund striker has played a major part in taking the Ruhr giants to an unprecedented Bundesliga-DFB Pokal double, for the first time in their history.
Lewy’s hat-trick against UEFA Champions League finalists Bayern Munich in the German Cup Final last weekend, has really brought him to the notice of the continent’s big-spenders, including Manchester United. This is on top of his 22 goals in the Bundesliga, and 7 more in the cup. But there were also two more Poles heavily involved in Dortmund’s fantastic season. Midfielder ‘Kuba’ Blaszczykowski and right back Lukasz Piszczek, were both regulars in the starting line-ups and both made regular vital contributions through ‘assists’. In the German magazine ‘Kicker’s’ final standings of the season’s most consistent Bundesliga players, they were placed at 9th and 12th respectively. Two more of Franciszek Smuda’s squad have also made their mark at the highest level of European club football. Wojciech Szczesny is regarded as one of the English Premier League’s best goalkeepers, despite his youthful years and being the last line of a somewhat unpredictable defense at Arsenal.
The 22 year old is still well-short of maturity which comes later for goalies, yet he shows remarkable self-confidence, something that will be very useful to Poland in the hot-bed atmosphere of UEFA EURO 2012. Especially as he will probably have another unpredictable defense in front of him. Ludovic Obraniak has found a new lease of life at French side Bordeaux after spending five successful seasons with Lille with whom he won the French League Championship and Cup double in 2010-11. He lost his regular place and rather than endure a possible long wait to get back into the team, he snapped up a tempting offer from Les Girondins, and has not looked back since. Earlier this year Ludo grabbed the perfect opportunity to show that Lille had made a mistake in letting him go when he scored twice against his old club, including the winner in injury time, and all this in front of their own fans.
There are a few more promising young players who have also been enjoying some success at a good level, which has received less publicity than the Borussia Dortmund trio. Maciej Rybus has quickly established himself as a stalwart midfielder for cash-rich Terek Grozny in the highly-competitive Russian league. Although he may well receive a fairly cool reception from the Legia Warsaw section of Polska fans, after jumping ship halfway through this season just gone. The lure of the ruble proved more tempting even than a realistically possible good run in the UEFA Europa League with the Lazienkowska outfit.
The fact that Poland can now field a team of players who are playing regularly at a good level of European football, plus some respectable recent results, suggest that the long-wait for the successors to 1974 and 1982 may not be that far away.
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