WORLD CUP: Team profile – POLAND (GROUP A)

Even the most diehard Polish supporters were pleasantly surprised at their team’s success in qualifying for the World Cup in advance of their last group match away to England. The venue of the 2006 finals has been a happy hunting ground for the Poles in the past, as the East Europeans sealed the greatest triumph in their footballing history on German soil with third place at the 1974 finals.

The current team coached by Pawel Janas lost home and away to England but won all their remaining eight qualifiers, and are now determined to open a new chapter in their country’s football lore. The time is certainly ripe, as the glories of the past are rapidly fading from the collective memory in Poland. They won gold at the Olympic Football Tournament in Munich before the third-place finish at the 1974 finals again in Germany two years later — Grzegorz Lato’s seventh goal of the tournament proving enough to pip the Brazilians.

Poland emulated that achievement with a victory over France at Spain 1982. Their team that year was marshalled by world-class midfielder Zbigniew Boniek.

There was a 16-year gap before Poland reappeared at the World Cup finals, and their campaign at Korea/Japan proved a terrible let-down as their outstanding performances in qualifying crumbled into a first-round exit. Another bitter pill to swallow came with their failure to reach the EURO 2004 finals, so all eyes are now on the squad preparing for Germany. Coach Janas picks from a parade of established stars and Poland’s impressive qualifying march will certainly have made their potential finals opponents sit up and take notice. The strike pairing of Maciej Zurawski and Tomas Frankowski amassed a total of 14 goals in qualifying and will spearhead the latest quest for fresh glories.