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Goal.com looks at chances of Poland pulling off a maiden triumph in their own country and analyses tactically their strengths and weaknesses...

SPECIAL
By Kaustav Bera


Coming into Euro 2012, Poland are the lowest FIFA ranked team in the competition. In one way this is understandable too as Poland automatically qualified as the host nation and but does not reflect their actual strength at all. In fact Poland now have a solid backbone of three players from the double winning German champions, influential winger and Polish captain Jakub 'Kuba' Blaszczykowski, impressive target man Robert Lewandowski and rampaging right full back, Lukasz Piszczek.

Even in the relatively easy Group A, critics have branded Poland as being easy prey for the other teams. However bolstered by the impressive trio, Poland stand more than a chance of qualifying as they are also have the home advantage. What goes against Poland is their relatively easy pre tournament friendlies including the 4-0 thrashing of unfancied Andorra, where Smuda could not truly test his squad.

FORMATIONS AND TACTICS

    How Poland defend


Poland employ a standard 4-2-3-1 system under Smuda with two holding midfielders in place to provide defensive cover for the centre-backs which is certainly the weak spot of this Polish team. They play a strong defensive game, tight and solid in their shape. Dudka/Murawski and Polanski are the two holding midfielders who cannot be exactly expected to provide much impetus in attack. But what they are good at is providing a screen for the back four as well as stopping attacks before they start. On the right side, as Piszczek loves marauding forward at every opportunity, Kuba would cover for him efficiently as the two of them enjoy a telepathic understanding. Boenisch, the left back, is actually right footed so he would not be found overlapping much.

How Poland attack


In attack the fluid 4-2-3-1 usually transforms into a 4-1-3-2 with Piszczek going high up the pitch into almost a right midfielder's role, with Dudka covering for him while Polanski still stays back to anchor the midfield. Higher up the pitch Rybus prefers to stay out wide drilling crosses in, while Kuba likes to cut into the box at will and lay off balls to Lewandowski who excels at putting chances to bed. Meanwhile Obraniak who plays as a central attacking midfielder or a second striker also loves going out wide and provides width for the onrushing players. Lewandowski is the perfect target man as the Dortmund man has proved well this season bagging 20 goals for his club. Kuba too is a prolific scorer for both Dortmund and Poland and can drill it in, besides providing assists.


SWOT ANALYSIS

Strengths - Although Smuda has kicked out the experienced Artur Boruc from the squad, in Wojciech Szczesny he has found a more than equal if not better replacement. And besides some stumbles in the last couple of games for Arsenal, Szczesny has also made the Arsenal No. 1 position his own with a clutch of brilliant performances. Moreover in the Dortmund trio of Kuba, Lewandowski and Piszczek, after the brilliant Poland teams of the 70s and 80s, they have found a brilliant attacking dimesion. On their day they can rip apart any defense in Europe, and as Dortmund won an unprecedented double in Germany, their days did come more often than not!

Weaknesses - The Polish defense looks ordinary and is made by two strong physical no nonsense centre backs who could not be expected to start the play from the back and rely on hoofing the ball clear at every opportunity. Moreover the two holding central midfielders are more workmen-like than creators and lack any sort of guile or attacking intent. They are great at breaking up play and stopping threats but cannot be expected to provide ideas when the team is struggling to attack.

Opportunities - Poland must make use of their home advantage to make a mark in only the second European Championships they are participating in, after 2008. The three Dortmund players in the team also add to a great level of understanding especially in attack as Smuda plays a system similar to Dortmund.

Threats - The expectations might weigh down Poland as they play in front of their expectant home supporters who want them to achieve great things. Thus it is paramount that Poland defeat Greece in their first match to set the tone for the whole tournament. Also Smuda's zero tolerance policy on alcohol related incidents had led to ousting seasoned players from the team and this can create problems with morale in the Polish camp.

COACH IN QUOTE


“Individuality is a player like Messi. We don’t have such players, so we should do our best to be strong as a team.”

- Franciscek Smuda

THE VERDICT

Poland could qualify from their group with Lewandowski's goals powering them past the first round. Further progress is possible only if the Polish players play out of their skin.

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