Before Euro 2016 began, Poland were 40/1 outsiders. They hadn’t even made it to the World Cup in Brazil two years earlier, and many had written them off as a one-man team – and over-reliant on Robert Lewandowski.
But Adam Nawalka’s men are already proving their doubters wrong, with odds of Poland to win the Euros having now tumbled to 25/1. But their displays in qualifying proved that last night’s impressive display against Germany was no fluke. Here are five reasons Poland can go all the way this summer.
They’re tough to break down
Lewandowski may have understandably received much of the praise during Poland’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, but a robust and reliable defence was a crucial factor in Biale Orly reaching the finals in France.
Nawalka’s charges managed four clean sheets in qualifying, including a shutout of World Champions Germany in Warsaw, and they were the only team to manage to keep Georgia at bay both home and away.
With a settled pair of centre-backs in the tough and talented Kamil Glik and no-nonsense Michal Pazdan, they’ve looked more settled than ever at the back in France.
Against Northern Ireland, they became the first team to stop the opposition having a shot during a half in this tournament since Euro 2000, while the 0-0 draw against Germany was a first blank for Die Mannschaft at a major tournament since World Cup 2010.
Their game management is fantastic
While many managers feel that keeping possession is key, Nawalka has built a Poland side who are as comfortable off the ball as on it. Well-organised throughout the side, they frequently frustrate opponents by offering them few sights at goal, yet are blistering on the counter-attack.
Perhaps the best example of this was in the 4-0 defeat of Georgia during qualifying. Biale Orly had just 45 per cent possession at Stadion Naradowy, yet had the majority of the chances – and punished their opponents on the counter, running in three goals beyond the 88-minute mark.
And they’re the masters of seeing out games. Poland haven’t lost a competitive game from a winning position since 2008, an incredible record which means they won’t be fazed if they find themselves ahead against one of the big boys this summer.
Goal-machine Lewandowski is surrounded by quality
Of course, it always helps to see a game out when you have one of the most prolific marksmen in world football.
Lewandowski scored a chart-topping 13 goals in Euro 2016 qualifying, including a frankly incredible five-minute hat-trick against Georgia. And he comes into this tournament on superb form for club side Bayern Munich, too – just the 30 goals from 32 Bundesliga games last season!
But to say that Poland’s attacking threat is all about Lewandowski does a disservice to fleet-footed strike partner Arek Milik and wing wizard Kamil Grosicki.
Ajax man Milik struck five in qualifying – as Poland scored a Europe-high 33 goals – while Grosicki netted four of his own. Teams double-marking Lewandowski risk the danger of being exposed elsewhere by the Biale Orly frontline.
They’re great in the air
Already, we’ve seen that Euro 2016 will be won as much among the clouds as on the ground. From Gareth McAuley’s leaping header to put Northern Ireland ahead against Ukraine to Vasili Berezutski’s injury-time flick into the England net, aerial prowess is a powerful weapon.
And nobody has been better in the air than Poland. They scored a record seven headed goals during qualifying, while the imposing pairing of Glik and Pazdan at centre-back are almost unbeatable in the air.
Not only are the Bialo-czerwoni (or ‘Red-and-whites’) deadly from dead-ball situations, they’re also unlikely to concede from them, even against the tournament’s biggest and strongest opponents.
Nobody else is on fire in France
The hosts have laboured to last-gasp victories over Romania and Albania, while Spain were lucky to sneak a win over Czech Republic and – many people’s tip – Belgium were dismal in defeat to Italy.
By contrast, Poland dominated in their victory over Northern Ireland, with only luck and Michael McGovern keeping the score down at 1-0, in a game Bialy Orly could have won by any number of goals.
And they produced a consummate display against World Champions Germany to take a well-deserved point into the final Group E game against Ukraine.
Poland are the men to back in this clash of the Euro 2012 hosts. It’s Evens for a Polish victory, while Ukraine are 3/1 and 5/2 for the draw.
And Nawalka’s side look well worth backing to win the group at 4/1, with Northern Ireland going into their clash with Germany in very confident mood.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.