Poland are the number-one seeds in Group H for Russia 2018, after their recent rise up the world rankings, and will likely face-off with Colombia for top spot in the group. Senegal and Japan are their other group stage opponents.
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Robert Lewandowski’s goals fired Poland to the World Cup, as he scored 16 times in Group E of the European qualifying section – more than any other player in the whole of the European qualifying.
Lewandowski scored in each of the first six matches, including a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at home to Denmark – as Poland bounced back from drawing their opening game 2-2 with Kazakhstan, despite going 2-0 up; a late stoppage-time winner against Armenia the following week; and another hat-trick in a 3-1 home win against Romania.
Poland lost their seventh game, suffering a crushing 4-0 defeat away to Denmark, but finished the campaign with three straight wins – Lewnadowski again scoring in every game, including his third hat-trick as Poland won 6-1 in Armenia. Ultimately, Poland won the group with a perfect home record, finishing five points clear of the Danes.
Poland’s World Cup glory years were back in the 1970s and 1980s, when they finished third in Germany in 1974 and again in Spain in 1982.
More recently, they failed to qualify for either of the last two World Cups, exited at the group stage with one win and two defeats in both 2006 and 2002 before that, and did not reach the finals in any of the 1990s World Cups.
akub Blaszczykowski made his return from injury just in time for the end of the season, and the veteran midfielder should take up his spot in the Polish World Cup squad. He is likely to make his 100th Poland appearance this summer, and he only needs 103 to set a new national record – albeit one Robert Lewandowski is rapidly hunting down already. Kuba was the most notable absentee from Poland’s squad for their recent friendlies, and Adam Nawalka should have a full-strength squad at his disposal in Russia as a result. The preliminary squad included four uncapped players – all domestic-based – but none made the final cut. Krzysztof Maczynski was the most experienced player cut from the longlist, meanwhile – the Legia Warsaw midfielder deemed surplus to requirements despite having 31 caps to his name.
Robert Lewandowski was the top scorer in European qualifying with 16 goals, and he is now Poland’s all-time leading scorer with 52 in total from 93 appearances. The Bayern Munich striker enjoyed another stunning season in front of goal at club level too, passing 100 Bayern Munich league goals in the process. The return to fitness of Jakub Blaszczykowski is also a timely boost for Poland – the midfielder will actually be the second highest goalscorer in Poland’s World Cup squad, having scored 19 at a rate of just less than one every five games.
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Poland ended a three-match winless streak when they beat South Korea 3-2 in Chorzow in March – Piotr Zielinski scoring a stoppage-time winner after two late Korean goals had cancelled out Robert Lewandowski and Kamil Grosicki’s first-half strikes. They had failed to score in three consecutive games before that, drawing 0-0 with Uruguay and losing 1-0 to both Mexico and Nigeria. A 2-2 draw with Chile followed, with Lewandowski again on the scoresheet, and their star striker added two more in a 4-0 win against Lithuania in their final warm-up.
1 – Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus) – Age 28 – 35 caps/0 goals
12 – Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich Town) – Age 30 – 1 cap/0 goals
22 – Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City) – Age 33 – 45 caps/0 goals
2 – Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw) – Age 30 – 33 caps/0 goals
3 – Artur Jedrzejeczyk (Legia Warsaw) – Age 30 – 36 caps/3 goals
4 – Thiago Cionek (SPAL) – Age 32 – 19 caps/0 goals
5 – Jan Bednarek (Southampton) – Age 22 – 3 caps/0 goals
13 – Marciej Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow) – Age 28 – 51 caps/2 goals
15 – Kamil Glik (Monaco) – Age 30 – 58 caps/4 goals
18 – Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria) – Age 25 – 8 caps/0 goals
20 – Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund) – Age 33 – 63 caps/3 goals
6 – Jacek Goralski (Ludogorets Razgrad) – Age 25 – 5 caps/0 goals
8 – Karol Linetty (Sampdoria) – Age 23 – 20 caps/1 goal
10 – Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Brom) – Age 28 – 51 caps/2 goals
11 – Kamil Grosicki (Hull City) – Age 29 – 57 caps/12 goals
16 – Jakub Blaszczykowski (VfL Wolfsburg) – Age 32 – 99 caps/20 goals
17 – Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk) – Age 33 – 43 caps/2 goals
19 – Piotr Zielinski (Napoli) – Age 24 – 33 caps/5 goals
21 – Rafal Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze) – Age 25 – 3 caps/0 goals
7 – Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli) – Age 24 – 40 caps/12 goals
9 – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – Age 29 – 95 caps/55 goals
14 – Lukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht) – Age 27 – 17 caps/4 goals
23 – Dawid Kownacki (Sampdoria) – Age 21 – 2 caps/1 goal
Poland were number-one seeds in Group H, and while their world ranking was a little artificially inflated at the time, they nevertheless should get through with little trouble. They are 4/7 with Bet365 to qualify from Group H.
The question is whether they will get through as group winners, but Colombia are favourites in that regard. Poland are 7/4 to win the group, but Colombia reached the quarter-finals last time out and are 5/4 by contrast.
Nevertheless, Poland will face a tricky tie in the last-16 no matter whether they finish first or second. Belgium or England are set to be awaiting Colombia or Poland in whichever order they all finish.
Poland will certainly be hoping it is not England, who have they have only beaten once in 19 attempts and never since 1973, but Belgium are arguably the stronger of the two teams and will be even more formidable opponents.
As a result, Poland are 13/8 to be eliminated in the last-16, as opposed to 5/2 to actually reach the quarter-finals.
As long as they make it through the group, however, star striker Robert Lewandowski could be a good bet for golden boot. He may lack the games others will play if they get further in the competition than Poland are expected to, but he regular hits two, three or more in single matches – if Japan or Senegal (or even Colombia, for that matter) come up against him on one of his best days, he is not such an outrageous shout at 34/1 with Ladbrokes or William Hill. And remember, an each-way bet pays out to four places.
While their recent World Cup record has been less than impressive, Poland are a much-improved team now – as they showed in qualifying. Nevertheless, with Belgium or England likely to be awaiting in the second round, and them having a poor record against both, their World Cup journey could end at the last-16 stage.
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Complete list of 32 teams participating in World Cup 2018 and their Group Predictions