Poland are early contenders to be dark horses at the World Cup in 2018

Eleven years after their last appearance World Cup Finals appearance, Poland are finally set to make their return to the grandest stage in football.

With the right man at the helm in the form of 59-year-old former midfielder Adam Nawałka and a talented squad of up-and-coming footballers at their disposal, this new generation of Polish footballers is regarded as one of the country’s greatest ever set.

Poland’s best-ever finish at a World Cup came in 1974 in West Germany and 1982 in Spain where they finished third on both occasions.

That side had legendary names such Grzegorz Lato, Zbigniew Boniek and Jan Tomaszewski amongst many others.

They were the dominant force in that period and were often tipped to win the World Cup, especially in 1974 where many thought they were the greatest national team in the world.

The country went through a great decline following the retirements of several of their star names.

A vague Round of 16 exit in Mexico ’86 was continued followed by failures to qualify for the tournaments in 1990 up until 2002 where they would fail to make it past the group stages in South Korea and Japan.

A better overall showing was on display in Germany four years later, although it finished with them failing to make to the knockout rounds again.

Participation in major competitions has been a norm since then, as they played at the Euros in 2008, 2012 (as hosts) and put on an impressive showing in France last summer, losing in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Portugal after a valiant showing.

Adam Nawałka has revitalized the side since his appointment in 2013 as he’s brought up several talented, young footballers and a wave of positive energy.

The side is stacked with top players making their way across the best clubs in Europe.

Competition for the starting role in goal is rife, with Łukasz Fabiański’s fine form for club and country being challenged by current Roma number one Wojciech Szczęsny and Empoli’s emerging goalkeeper Łukasz Skorupski, who is seen as one of the finest in Italy’s top division.

The immense individuals in the net are protected by experienced names in the defence in front of them.

Kamil Glik and Łukasz Piszczek are household names plying their trade with the best of the best in European football, while Maciej Rybus and Michał Pazdan add extra mettle to the back line.

They’ve held their own at the back and have proved their quality at the European Champions, where they conceded just two goals in five matches – both in the knockout rounds.

The midfield is where the real burst of talent is and they have some stars playing in the best leagues in Europe here.

Piotr Zieliński and Karol Linetty both play in Serie A with Napoli and Sampdoria respectively and have forged a reputation in Italy.

Zieliński, in particular has caught the eye of the likes of Liverpool and AC Milan in recent months as he’s proven his worth with some brilliant dribbling skills, and fearless attacking abilities with the Patronepei.

Linetty, in his first season in the Italian top flight, is a more defensive-minded midfielder who has got a fantastic ability to read and time his challenges.

The two are just 22-years-old and have bright futures ahead of them with the national team and are supported by some more established players.

Kamil Grosicki and Jakub Błaszczykowski, both wingers, have nearly 150 international caps combined and have been the driving force for the national team in recent years.

They put on good showings at the Euros in France and have been equally as vital to the side in the recent World Cup Qualifiers.

Grzegorz Krychowiak has endured a relatively tough patch since moving to France with Paris Saint-Germain, failing to make his way into the French champions’ first-team plans but there is no doubt about his importance to the national setup, having played every minute of their successful Euros campaign.

Up front, the up-and-coming Arkadiusz Milik is a forward with all the necessary attributes to terrorise any defence.

Blessed with height and strength and makes the best use of it to get himself on the scoresheet. His attacking compatriot does not need much of an introduction – Robert Lewandowski.

Arguably, the best number nine in the world, he has led the side by example since he was given the armband and looks set to take them to their first World Cup since 2006.

Poland lead their World Cup Qualifying group by six points over nearest challengers Montenegro with five games left to play and it would be a surprise not to see them make it to the final tournament now.

This is the best generation for Polish football since they finished third at the World Cups in 1974 and 1982, and a strong showing in Russia next year is expected, all while they produce some wonderful scenes for the highlight reels.

The Author

Karan Tejwani

Football fan and writer. Keen follower of South American football culture and an occasional thing or two for the numbers that make up the game. Currently residing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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