Euro 2012 Previews: #1 Poland

Co-hosts Poland will get Euro 2012 underway on June 8th when they face 2004 winners, Greece. There is always a certain amount of pressure, hope and expectation that comes with hosting a major tournament and Poland as co-hosts – in only their second European Championship will be looking to avoid what happened in the previous tournament when co-hosts, Austria and Switzerland both failed to make it through the group stages four years ago.

According to FIFA rankings they are the worst team at the tournament and are ranked significantly lower than the other three teams in their group at 65th – Russia (11th), Greece (14th) and Czech Republic (26th). On the plus side, under coach Franciszek Smuda – who took over from interim-coach, Stefan Majewski – Poland have become an incredibly tough side to break down. While they’ve not played a competitive game since 2009 (automatically qualify as co-hosts) Poland have only lost just two of their last ten friendly games – a 2-0 and 1-0 defeat to Italy and France respectively.

In their ranks, the Polish have Borussia Dortmund trio of Robert Lewandowski (pictured, above), Jakub Blaszczykowsi and Lukasz Piszczek who have won the double of league and cup this season in Germany and also possess the Arsenal goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny who has had a solid season, finishing 3rd in the Premier League. Of the 26 men that Smuda has called up to his provisional squad, Lewandowski and Blaszczykowsi are the highest scorers with 13 and 8 international goals respectively, along with Trabzonspor striker, on loan at Celtic, Pawel Brozek who also has 8 international goals. Since the last tournament, strikers Euzebiusz Smolarek, Maciej Zurawksi and midfielder Jacek Krzynowek – who boasted a collective total of 52 international goals – have all retired.

With the home crowd on their side, one of the main aims from Poland will be to get out of their group and progress to the knockout stages – certainly in terms of the four groups, Group A represents the home side’s best chance of progressing. Unfortunately, they will be faced with one of a possible four European heavyweights: Holland, Germany, Portugal or Denmark.

Fixtures: Poland vs. Greece (June, 8th), Poland vs. Russia (June, 12th) and Czech Rep vs. Poland (June, 16th).

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