Monday, May 22, 2006

FIFA World Cup Preview- Poland (Group A)

Poland
1 GK BORUC Artur - (Celtic, SCO)
2 DF JOP Mariusz - (FC Moscow, RUS)
3 DF GANCARCZYK Seweryn - (Metalist Kharkiv, UKR)
4 DF BASZCZYNSKI Marcin - (Wisla Krakow, POL)
5 MF KOSOWSKI Kamil - (Southampton, ENG)
6 DF BAK Jacek - (Al Rayyan, QAT)
7 MF SOBOLEWSKI Radoslaw - (Wisla Krakow, POL)
8 MF KRZYNOWEK Jacek - (Bayer Leverkusen, GER)
9 FW ZURAWSKI Maciej - (Celtic, SCO)
10 MF SZYMKOWIAK Miroslav - (Trabzonspor, TUR)
11 FW RASIAK Grzegorz - (Southampton, ENG)
12 GK KUSZCZAK Tomasz - (Slask Wroclaw, POL)
13 MF MILA Sebastian - (Austria Vienna, AUT)
14 DF ZEWLAKOW Michal - (Anderlecht, BEL)
15 MF SMOLAREK Ebi - (Borussia Dortmund, GER)
16 MF RADOMSKI Arkadiusz - (Austria Vienna, AUT)
17 DF DUDKA Dariusz - (Wisla Krakow, POL)
18 DF LEWANDOWSKI Mariusz - (Shakhtar Donetsk, UKR)
19 MF GORAWSKI Damian - (FC Moscow, RUS)
20 MF GIZA Piotr - (Cracovia, POL)
21 FW JELEN Ireneusz - (Wisla Plock, POL)
22 GK FABIANSKI Lukasz - (Legia Warsaw, POL)
23 FW BROZEK Pawel - (Wisla Krakow, POL)

Coach: Pawel Janas

This is a young and talented Polish team that got an automatic qualification spot, inspite of finishing second to England in its group. The squad looks somewhat different from the last world cup, where Poland finished bottom of a group containing South Korea, USA and Poland, yet there are some familiar faces who have retained their place due to their continued good performances over the last 4 years.
The goalkeepers' list bears the biggest shock of the squad, with Polish football's biggest star, Jerzy Dudek, finding himself out of the national team after a season in which he was second choice to Pepe Reina at Liverpool. Instead the number One jersey has been handed to Boruc of Celtic. Tomasz Kuszczak (West Brom) and Legia Warsaw's Lukasz Fabianski are likely to be the reserve goalkeepers.
In defence, there is a long list of quality players that includes veteran Jacek Bak, Zewlakow of Anderlecht (just moved to Olympiakos), Lewandowski and Baszczynski. There are also less experienced players like Jop, Gancarczyk, and Dudka who have displayed tremendous ability.
The midfield is also strong. Jacek Krzynowek (in pic) has been a star at Bayer Leverkusen for many years, and might be keen to prove a point at the World Cup before moving to Wolfsburg. He has great mental strength and is quite experienced (the most capped player in this squad), and has a great technique as shown by his stunning strike against Real Madrid a few years ago. Kamil Kosowski has had a great season for Southampton, and Miroslav Szymkowiak an even more stunning one for Trabzonspor in Turkey. Sobolewski, Mila, Radomski, Gorawski and Giza are also fairly good. Then there is Ebi Smolarek of Dortmund, who, to be fair, has looked like a pretty good striker, more than a midfielder , at club level. He makes intelligent runs, and scores plenty of goals.
The reason Smolarek plays in midfield for Poland inspite of his proven attacking instincts is the team's stunning strike force, easily the team's biggest strength. The forward line is so strong that the team's star striker (Emanuel Olisadebe) at the last edition couldn't even make it into the squad. Zurawski and Rasiak have fared brilliantly in Britain at club level and even better during the FWC 2006 qualifiers. Reserve strikers are Jelen and Brozek. With Smolarek's goals from midfield added to this, it makes for a goalfeast.

OVERALL ASSESSMENT: Poland are favourites to progress from Group A after Germany, provided they play to their potential, especially against Costa Rica and Ecuador. And expect plenty of goals if they do. They may regret dropping Dudek, though. Janas will hope, however, that this gamble pays off for Poland.

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