WORLD CUP: Players to watch

Maciej Zurawski (Poland)

It’s about time Poland had a big name to make people sit up and take notice. I think we’ve found him. My opinion of Zurawski is that he is a complete player.”

High praise indeed, and all the more significant when one considers that it came from the great Zbigniew Boniek, a star of the 1982 World Cup and, arguably, the finest footballer Poland has ever produced. So, who is the player to have earned the acclaim of a man who conquered Italy and Europe during the 80s?

Zurawski certainly is not one of the stars, nor, at 29, can he be considered an emerging talent. The Celtic striker is, however, one of the classic late developers and with seven goals to his name in qualifying, he will shoulder a heavy burden of responsibility for ensuring Poland improve on their disastrous showing in 2002. Ordinarily, Zurawski’s first name should be pronounced ‘Ma-chai’. Not in Glasgow. After a debut season at Celtic that has yielded a Scottish league title and 19 goals, he has earned the moniker ‘Magic’ and the feeling is that if anyone is going to pull a proverbial rabbit out of the hat for Poland in neighbouring Germany, it is likely to be the former Wisla Krakow marksman.

Grzegorz Rasiak (Poland)

Poland’s FIFA World Cup striker Grzego rz Rasiak has made his loan from Tottenham Hotspur to second division Southampton a permanent move for $3.68 million. Rasiak, who failed to make an impact in the Premier League with Spurs, has signed a four-year deal after joining Southampton on loan in February. The 27-year-old forward has scored four goals in 12 games under Southampton boss George Burley, who first brought him to English football as Derby County manager in 2004.

Looking ahead to the World Cup, where Poland face Germany, Ecuador and Costa Rica in Group A, Rasiak told Southampton’s website: “There is strong competition for places up front, so it was important for me to finish the season strongly for Southampton.”