Polish journeymen prepare to spring 'surprises'

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It may be another World Cup qualifying away game against another team from central Europe, but England face an altogether different task against Poland here tonight.

It may be another World Cup qualifying away game against another team from central Europe, but England face an altogether different task against Poland here tonight.

Austria, their opponents in Vienna on Saturday, were a team filled with young inexperienced players, most of whom had never played for a club outside Austria. The Poles, in contrast, are largely a team of journeymen European professionals who play in countries as far apart as Ukraine and England. The average age of the team is nearly 28, with Liverpool's goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, and the Lens defender, Jacek Bak, the most experienced at 31.

However, while most of the Polish team play abroad, they are generally with second-rank clubs and some are not even first-team regulars. Kamil Kosowski, for example, was one of the bright lights of Polish football as a raiding wide midfield player, but following his move to Germany he has struggled to make the starting line-up with Kaiserslautern.

One player who has caught the eye of Sven Goran Eriksson is Sebastian Mila, at 22 the youngest player in the likely starting XI. Mila, one of only three probable starters who still play in Poland, had a key role when his club, Groclin, knocked Manchester City out of the Uefa Cup last season, scoring a vital away goal with a free-kick of which David Beckham would have been proud. "I am sure he will create a lot of problems for us," Eriksson said yesterday.

The Poland coach, Pawel Janas, is said to prefer playing with a lone striker, Maciej Zurawski, but the players are happier playing in a conventional 4-4-2 line-up, which they used to good effect in their impressive 3-0 victory away to Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Janas has kept his cards close to his chest in the build-up to tonight's game, though he is said to have identified England's left flank as an area of weakness, presumably to be exploited by Kosowski.

"I am preparing several surprises for England, which is why I substituted Maciej Zurawski and Jacek Krzynowek against Northern Ireland," Janas said. "I wanted to save them for Wednesday. We want to fight for at least second place in the group, but who says that we cannot take first place? For that, we must play a different brand of football."

One enforced change will be a replacement for the striker Piotr Wlodarczyk who was sent off in Belfast. Grzegorz Rasiak, who plays in Italy for Siena, is one possibility, but NEC Nijmegen's Andrzej Niedzielan is considered a more likely starter.

Janas added: "We haven't got any recipe for England, but we have one basic thing - good physical preparation. Unfortunately I have no influence in this. My team will be made up mostly from foreign-based players. We haven't got much time for 'special' training."

Poland play Austria and Wales in November and Janas has set a target of seven points from their first four games. The win in Northern Ireland provided the perfect start and Janas believes he can make further progress. "I don't differentiate between matches," he said. "Every match is important. Every one is a big event. I think the best preparation for the England game was to beat Northern Ireland and I believe we can win again."

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