Matthew Karas

Takeaways from Recent Poland Friendlies

Robert Lewandowski continues to be the main threat, having scored 3 out of Poland's 6 goals in the last two games / Twitter
Takeaways from Recent Poland Friendlies

The Polish National Team wrapped up their final pair of warm-up matches on Tuesday afternoon with a 4:0 throttling of Lithuania. The game was as one-sided and error free of a match that the Poles have played in recent memory. However, only a few days prior, the team’s frustratingly unpredictable ways were on full display during their 2:2 draw against a Chilean squad laden with unproven youngsters.

Here are some takeaways from the aforementioned matches.

Foot Needs to Stay on Gas Pedal

Much like teams led by his recent predecessors, manager Adam Nawalka’s squad has a dubious ability to go into cruise control when they take a lead. On Friday, the kadra showed flashes of absolute brilliance early on, which culminated in a world class strike from Robert Lewandowski and a Piotr Zielinski tap-in to put the squad up by a pair by the 34th minute.

Unfortunately, the team became complacent with their lead and allowed a Chilean squad, without stars Alexis Sanches, Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz no less, to finagle their way back into the game. The Poles became disorganized on the back-end and sloppy on the front and were unable to conjure up anything better than a draw. Had Chile fielded their best squad, we would likely be frantically looking for answers as Polish fans at the wrong time. The fact of the matter is that Nawalka and his squad need to pull up their bootstraps in Russia, as laying off the gas pedal against the likes of Colombia and Senegal will not render ideal results.

Center Backs Headed in Opposite Directions

Just about every Polish football fan’s heart stopped when they heard the news of star center back Kamil Glik injuring his shoulder attempting a bicycle kick in a game of foot volleyball. In a quasi-miraculous set of events, the brute defender has defied all odds and was given the green light to play in the World Cup. The question remained, once healthy, who will join Glik as the team’s other starting center back?

Michal Pazdan was a revelation at the 2016 European Championships. The Legia Warsaw defender helped solidify a back line that did not concede a single goal in their first three matches. Well, the tournament may very well have been Pazdan’s apex as the 30-year old has incurred a slip in form for both club and country ever since. Friday’s match against Chile was again a testament to this free-fall. Pazdan clumsily made a poor clearance directly to an oncoming Chilean attacker which nearly resulted in gift wrapped goal and failed to mark midfielder Diego Valdes which resulted in Chile’s first goal.

On the other hand, Jan Bednarek’s game is starting to pick up steam at the right time. Backed by some impressive showings with his Southampton side late in the EPL season, Nawalka had no choice but to include the towering defender in his final 23-man squad. Bednarek has made his manager look rather astute with two very impressive showings in the friendlies against Chile and Lithuania. He routinely won aerial battles, looked calm in possession and was nimble enough to solidly mark opposing attackers. Despite only being 22-years old, Bednarek looked calm, cool and collected and may very well have secured himself a starting spot for next Tuesday’s tilt against Senegal.

Veteran Wingers Look Ready

It is safe to say that Jakub Blaszczykowski, 32, and Kamil Grosicki, 30, are no spring chickens in the life cycle of a footballer. The former has battled injury throughout his season with Wolfsburg, rendering next to no playing time, while the latter has had an inconsistent run with Championship side, Hull City. However, the red & white of Poland’s jersey appear to be the elixir that they so desperately need.

To describe how Blaszczykowski looked versus Chile in one word it would be “fresh”. The winger appeared healthy, alert and showed flashes of being the well rounded footballer we’ve all known and loved over the past decade. Although he may have lost a step over the years, “Kuba” displayed class, creativity and a commendable tenacity to win any lose balls within his jurisdiction on Friday evening. On Tuesday, the winger came on in the second half and looked equally impressive in his 100th appearance for his country. In addition, he may have exorcised some demons when he executed a penalty kick to put Poland up 4:0. Kuba is definitely back.

Grosicki was, unequivocally, one of Poland’s best players against Chile. His propensity to attack defenders was  on full display as he routinely made the Chilean back-end look vulnerable. “Turbo” has evolved into a player that opposing team’s simply cannot overlook. He created several chances on Friday and was the maestro of an easy tap-in goal for teammate Zielinski.

Despite their age, both wingers look ready to play an integral role in what is hopefully a lengthy World Cup run this summer.

Lewy is Not Alone

Lewandowski continues to spoil Polish football fans with his world class play. He netted a filthy, left-footed golazo against Chile, and followed it up with two clinical finishes against Lithuania. All in a couple days’ worth of work. We all know “Lewy” is the straw that stirs the national team’s drink, but it looks like he has some help up front.

Much like Blaszczykowski, Arkadiusz Milik’s 2017-18 season was mired in injury, which resulted in a negligible amount of playing time with club team, Napoli. Given the 24-year old’s lack of fitness, Nawalka decided to start the striker in both friendlies to get his feet under him in advance of Russia. Although Milik failed to convert a few chances, he certainly did not look out of place and could very well play alongside Lewy should the manager choose to go with a dual striker formation.

In Tuesday’s match versus Lithuania, Nawalka surprised most with a formation that featured three forwards – Lewandowski, Milik and prodigy Dawid Kownacki. The 21-year old Sampdoria man was all over the field and looked like a veteran despite this being only his second game for the kadra. Kownacki’s efforts were rewarded when he directed home a juicy pass from fellow Sampdorian Bartosz Bereszynski.

Wait, there’s more.

The enigma known as Lukasz Teodorczyk came on in the second half of the game and displayed the combination of length and skill that he shown playing for club side RSC Anderlecht. Although he did not register a goal on the afternoon, the 27-year old was strong on the ball and was able to spring fellow teammates free for a pair of chances. He gives Poland as formidable of a striker combination as there is in this summer’s tournament. It will be interesting to see how Nawalka decides to utilize his embarrassment of riches.

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View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. Tom

    June 13, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    No mention of Zielinski! He’s going to have a big tournament.

  2. Matt Karas

    June 13, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Correction: Senegal game is on Tuesday, not Thursday.

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Matthew Karas
@MKdoesSports

Matthew Karas is a PSN Columnist and admitted sportaholic. In addition to his work on PSN, he has also writes for The Hockey Writers and FanSided.

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