For Polish football fans, the last few international competitions have been ones to forget. Big things were anticipated for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after a journey to the quarterfinals of the 2016 European Championships two years earlier. This, however, turned out to be very different. The Biao-czerwoni placed last in their group, ending Adam Nawaka’s five-year reign as manager of his nation. In 2020, under the leadership of Portuguese manager Paulo Sousa, Poland struggled once more in European competition, finishing last in their EURO 2020 group with just one point after three games.
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The talented Robert Lewandowski of Barcelona is currently competing for Poland. However, the Polish national squad has become somewhat of an enigma ahead of the Qatar Football World Cup. With Czeslaw Michniewicz, the former Poland U21 manager, in charge heading into the competition, a new manager is once more in the hot seat. Feyenoord’s Sebastian Szymanski, Spezia’s Jakub Kiwior and AS Roma’s Nicola Zalewski are likely to be on the even to Qatar and in the starting lineup for the first group stage encounter, and young talent has already begun to break into the senior squad.
This tactical analysis and scouting report will show why they should be a team to keep an eye on towards the end of November, especially because this may be Robert Lewandowski’s final Football World Cup. Czeslaw Michniewicz has experimented with several players and starting lineups throughout his brief tenure as the head coach of the Polish national team (eight games) to find the ideal solution. What he will probably start against Mexico on November 22nd in their group opener is depicted in the chart above. The Polish coach has employed this 3-4-2-1 style in their final pre-World Cup warm-up games.
Wojciech Szczesny of Juventus is guaranteed to start in goal for Poland based on the defence. Since Ukasz Fabiaski departed from international football last year, the 66-cap international has cemented his position as the unquestioned #1 between the pipes. We forecast that Michniewicz will continue to use three centre-backs in the defensive line. Jan Bednarek of Aston Villa and Kamil Glik of Benevento are likely to start, with Jakub Kiwior of Spezia making an unexpected debut. The 22-year-old has only received four senior caps, but after making his senior international debut earlier this year, he has started to solidify his place in the manager’s plans.
Moving up the field, Poland’s most seasoned starter in midfield, Grzegorz Krychowiak of Al-Shabab, will once again serve as the midfield cornerstone in another international competition. Krychowiak has 93 caps for Poland. Next to him will probably be Torino midfielder Karol Linetty, who has performed admirably for both club and nation thus far this season following a lacklustre campaign for his club in the 2021–2022 season.
Nicola Zalewski and Matty Cash have anticipated starters at the wing-back/wide midfielder positions. Under José Mourinho, the former made his debut for AS Roma last year and is now someone to keep an eye on going forward. Since switching from Poland to England last year, Cash, a defender, has earned a berth in the starting lineup on the right side.
Sebastian Szymaski and Piotr Zielinski will probably start in the offensive roles together in the attacking midfield. Szymaski has had a fantastic season with Feyenoord, tallying 4 goals and 4 assists across all competitions. Michniewicz will be hopeful that Zielinski can carry his form from the club level to the national team in November. The Napoli playmaker has contributed six assists and four goals to the Partenopei this season across all competitions. Lastly, Robert Lewandowski will be running the line for Poland. At the end of November, Poland’s all-time leading scorer with 76 goals for his nation will be seeking to add to that total.
Czeslaw Michniewciz is yet to reveal the final 26-man roster as of the time of writing. The age range of the squad he is most likely to bring to Qatar is, however, depicted in the scatter figure above. Poland has a somewhat balanced representation of players from different age groups, with the majority being between 24 and 30. This suggests that most of the playing group are international players in the “peak” of their careers, with a mix of young talent and more seasoned, older players.
Lewandowski, Glik, Szczesny, and Krychowiak are the four most likely starters out of the starting XI’s probable lineup. At the same time, the other seven players will likely be a mix of young talent and players nearing the peak of their careers.
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Poland ranks in the 63rd percentile in the attacking pie chart metric, which examines how the team prefers to play in the attacking phase of the game. Michniewicz favours a fast-paced style of play where the ball is advanced quickly by playing it long to a center-forward or into the channels where the attackers can race onto it. Poland only ranks in the 12th percentile for possession percentage. Thus, they are not a team with much possession. Here are a few illustrations of Poland’s offensive style of play, which will likely be used throughout the FIFA World Cup.
Poland is not a side with much possession, as we can see from the data metric above. Instead, they try to regain control before immediately attacking, looking for openings behind the opposition’s defence and hitting long balls into these lanes. The game between Poland and Belgium in the most recent UEFA Nations League provides an illustration of this.
Observe how the player in possession has alternatives to play the ball short and continues to build in the phase of play above, particularly a square ball to his immediate right. However, due to the previous Belgium attack, Belgium is now playing a back three, and the wing-back on the far side is advanced and out of place. The Poland player then plays a long cross-field ball into the open area on the opposing side of the field. Because of their disorganised defence, this enabled them to attack and shatter the Belgian press rapidly.
Above is a better illustration of Poland’s favoured route-one aggressive football approach. The ball was passed back from the Belgian offensive third to Szcesny in the Poland goal before this picture. The defender was then able to throw a cross behind the Belgian defence to the striker coming up from behind after passing the ball out wide to the defender. The forward can be found sneaking in under the defender’s rear shoulder for the next long ball. The shot misses the target, but Poland will try to make plenty of passes and movements like this during the Football World Cup.
Another thing to note in Poland’s attacking phase is that all 10 outfield players are effectively in the opponent’s half, beyond midfield. Although it is uncommon for them to do so, it enables Poland to outnumber their opponents on the attacking half of the field. Additionally, they become excellent targets to win the first or second ball when they are played extended from the backline. Being able to win these first and second balls is essential for a not possession-focused offence to be successful.
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