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World Cup: Poland team profile

Poland finished third at the 1974 and 1982 World Cups, but they will be hoping to improve on a more modest recent record at this year's tournament in Qatar.

The Poles are lining up for their ninth appearance at a World Cup finals and it is likely to be the final chance for ace striker Robert Lewandowski to show his class on the world stage.

Even with one of the planet's most ruthless finishers leading the line, Poland are 125/1 to be crowned world champions and they are 10/11 to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time since 1986.

What:World Cup
When:21st November - 18th December 2022
How to watch:All matches will be shown on either the BBC or ITV
Odds:Brazil 9/2, England 11/2, France 6/1, Spain 8/1, Argentina 7/1

What is Poland's World Cup record?

Poland's golden era was in the 1970s and 1980s when they reached the knockout stages in four consecutive World Cups, finishing third in 1974 and losing to champions Italy in the 1982 semi-finals.

Since a last-16 exit in 1986, however, the Poles have qualified for only three World Cups, going out in the group stage in 2002, 2006 and 2018 and scoring only seven goals in nine games at those tournaments.

They were talked up as dangerous outsiders for the last World Cup in Russia but lost 2-1 to Senegal and 3-0 to Colombia in their first two fixtures and finished bottom of the group despite a 1-0 victory over Japan on matchday three.

Third place1974, 1982
Second group stage1978
Group stage

2002, 2006, 2018

First round1938

How did Poland qualify?

Poland finished as runners-up to England in their qualifying group, losing 2-1 to the Three Lions at Wembley before holding them to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture shortly after the Poles' group-stage exit at Euro 2020.

They won six of their other eight qualifiers to secure a playoff place, taking on Sweden in the Path B final in Chorzow in March 2022.

Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was kept busy by the Swedes in the first half but a Lewandowski penalty just after the break settled Polish nerves and Piotr Zielinski's 72nd-minute strike sealed victory despite the late introduction of Sweden legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Who is in Poland's group?

South American powerhouses Argentina are 2/5 to top Group C, with Poland 9/2 and Mexico - eliminated at the last-16 stage of the last seven World Cups - 5/1.

Saudi Arabia are the outsiders of the section at 20/1, so Poland's opening game against Mexico on 22nd November looks to be the key fixture in the battle for second place behind Argentina.

The Poles made a sluggish start to their World Cup 2018 campaign but a win over Mexico would set them up nicely as they face the Saudis on matchday two before tackling Argentina, who may have already sealed qualification, in Doha on 30th November.

Who is Poland's manager?

Czeslaw Michniewicz flitted from club to club in the first decade of his managerial career, before spending three years as Poland Under-21s coach.

He led Legia Warsaw to the Polish league title in 2020/21 and was appointed manager of the national team at the end of January 2022, succeeding Paulo Sousa, who stepped down after less than a year in the job.

Winning the World Cup play-off final was the new boss' top priority, but June's Nations League results were patchy as Poland beat Wales 2-1 and drew 2-2 away to the Netherlands, but also lost 6-1 and 1-0 to Belgium.

Related World Cup Group C News

World Cup - Football: Group C preview

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World Cup - Football: Mexico team profile

World Cup - Football: Saudi Arabia team profile

Who is Poland's star player?

Few international teams are as reliant on one superstar as Poland are on the prolific Lewandowski. The striker joined Barcelona in the summer after a glittering Bundesliga career with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, for whom he scored 34, 41 and 35 league goals in his final three seasons.

Lewandowski scored 16 goals in World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign (a European record), but failed to find the net in three group games at the finals.

He notched three of Poland's four goals at Euro 2020, though, and is 40/1 to be the top goalscorer in Qatar. 

Who could be Poland's breakout star?

Plenty of good judges were impressed by Nicola Zalewski's performances for Roma last season and the 20-year-old, who can play at wing-back or as a more attacking left-winger, is reportedly being monitored by Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham.

Roma boss Jose Mourinho is keen to keep the Italian-born Zalewski, who made his Poland debut against San Marino in September 2021 and should add some youthful zest to an experienced Polish squad at the World Cup. 

What is Poland's predicted line-up and tactics?

Poland predicted line-up (4-1-4-1): Wojciech Szczesny; Matty Cash, Kamil Glik, Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszynski; Mateusz Klich; Piotr Zielinski, Jacek Goralski, Sebastian Szymanski, Nicola Zalewski; Robert Lewandowski

Michniewicz has generally employed a back four since taking charge at the start of 2022 but Aston Villa's Matty Cash and Roma's Zalewski are capable wing-backs if the manager opts to switch to a three-man defence.

Lewandowski tends to play as a lone frontman, although Krzysztof Piatek and Arkadiusz Milik have decent goalscoring records at international level, so the emphasis is on the midfielders and full-backs to get forward in support of the Poles' record scorer.

Brighton attacking midfielder Jakub Moder started the playoff win over Sweden and would have been an important player for Poland but he is a major doubt to be fit for the World Cup after suffering a serious knee injury in April.

How far can Poland go in Qatar?

Any team at the tournament would love to have a striker of Lewandowski's calibre but enthusiasm for Poland's chances must be tempered by their recent record at major tournaments.

They finished bottom of their group at World Cup 2018 and at Euro 2020, where they suffered a shock opening defeat to Slovakia before drawing 1-1 with Spain and conceding a late goal to lose 3-2 against Sweden.

Poland rode their luck a little against the Swedes in this year's play-off final and their habit of starting tournaments slowly is a concern as they face their main qualification rivals Mexico on matchday one.

There is some quality in the supporting cast to Lewandowski but Moder's likely absence is a blow and a lack of pace at the back could prove costly against stronger opponents so the 4/5 about another group-stage exit looks worth considering.

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