Poland World Cup squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds

PROFILE: With the tournament only days away we take an in-depth look at all 32 teams in Russia

Liam Twomey
Monday 11 June 2018 10:26 BST
World Cup: Vladimir Putin welcomes football fans and players

Reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 was a rewarding experience for Poland, and the good feeling persisted long after the tournament. Qualification for this summer’s World Cup was secured in surprisingly emphatic fashion and, last August, Adam Nawalka’s side achieved the country’s highest-ever FIFA ranking of fifth.

Since then, however, form and fitness have begun to create problems. Grzegorz Krychowiak struggled to command regular minutes at West Brom, Jakub Blaszczykowski missed most of Wolfsburg’s season through injury, while Wojciech Szczesny and Arkadiusz Milik barely featured at Juventus and Napoli respectively.

For most of the season Robert Lewandowski maintained astonishingly high standards for club and country, but even Poland’s talisman and all-time top scorer faced questions about his performances and commitment as Bayern Munich once again fell agonisingly short in the Champions League.

This may be the last chance for him and several of Poland’s other more experienced stars to make a significant mark at a World Cup – a reality that makes defensive stalwart Kamil Glik’s shoulder injury all the more galling. A favourable group draw has presented Nawalka’s team with an opportunity to realise their ambitions, but it is less clear than ever if they are ready to take it.

Who do they play?

Poland vs Senegal – 16:00, Tuesday 19 June
Poland vs Colombia – 19:00, Sunday 24 June
Poland vs Japan – 15:00, Thursday 28 June

Key players

Robert Lewandowski: Scorer of 41 goals for Bayern Munich this season and a record 16 for Poland in World Cup qualifying, Lewandowski is arguably the world’s best striker operating at the peak of his powers. He operates as a lone frontman, feeding off crosses from Blaszczykowski and Kamil Grosicki and linking up with midfield runners Piotr Zielinski and Karol Linetty. Everything goes through him.

Lewandowski is Poland's most important player
Lewandowski is Poland's most important player (Getty)

Wojciech Szczesny: He may have spent last season as understudy to Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus, but Szczesny has successfully seen off Lukasz Fabianski to establish himself as Poland’s No1 goalkeeper. The former Arsenal man was identified as a potential replacement for the Italian legend in Turin after establishing himself as the outstanding goalkeeper in Serie A on loan at Roma.

Piotr Zielinski: As speculation persists that Napoli could lose several of their best players after an historic Serie A campaign, Zielinski has been linked with several major European clubs. He is the archetypal modern midfielder, allying speed and tenacity across the ground with the vision and technical ability to create chances in the final third.

One to watch

Karol Linetty: The success of Poland’s system depends on midfield runners supporting Lewandowski, and Linetty is every bit as suited to the task as Zielinski. He quickly forced his way into Sampdoria’s team after joining from Lech Poznan in the summer of 2016 and is now a regular for his country too, where his industry and invention provide a nice complement to the pragmatism of Krychowiak.

Karol Linetty in action for Poland
Karol Linetty in action for Poland (Getty)

How did they get here?

Poland qualified at a canter, winning eight of their 10 matches in a group that featured Denmark, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan. They took a maximum of 15 points at home; the only miss-steps came courtesy of a 2-2 draw in Astana and a 4-0 defeat in Copenhagen.

A decent rather than great defence (14 goals conceded in 10 games) was rendered irrelevant by the irrepressible form of Lewandowski in attack. The Bayern Munich striker netted 16 of the team’s 28 goals to finish one ahead of Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts.

2018 Russia World Cup in numbers

How will they do?

Group H lacks a clear favourite, and Poland are more than capable of snatching first place if their top talents perform. In many ways that makes their opening match against Senegal the most important, as it will set the tone for how Nawalka’s side deal with beatable but dangerous opponents. Finishing second would be perilous, as it sets up a potential round-of-16 clash with Belgium.

Anything less than reaching the knockout stage would be a step back from Euro 2016. A quarter-final place is the aim, where Germany or Brazil will be the likeliest opponents depending on Poland’s path, and they clearly have the talent to make it a realistic one.

Odds of winning the tournament: 66/1

Poland hope to escape the group stage
Poland hope to escape the group stage (Getty 2017)


Goalkeepers: Bartosz Bialkowski, Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny.

Defenders: Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszynski, Thiago Cionek, Kamil Glik, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Michal Pazdan, Lukasz Piszczek.

Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski, Jacek Goralski, Kamil Grosicki, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Rafal Kurzawa, Karol Linetty, Slawomir Peszko, Maciej Rybus, Piotr Zielinski.

Forwards: Dawid Kownacki, Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Lukasz Teodorczyk.

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