EURO 2012 GROUP of Life:Poland’s Dortmund trio,Gunners rivalry & Smuda’s axing of Peszko .

We begin our countdown to the 14th edition of the European Championship to be hosted by Poland and Ukraine between June 8 and July 1, 2012.  Europe’s best 16 teams will compete for the ultimate crown this summer. This will be the last European Championship to have 16 teams as Euro 2016 will have 24 teams.

Group A will be the most boring group of the tournament to many pundits as host nation Poland is in the same group with 2004- European champions Greece, 2008 semifinalist Russia and the 1996 Runners up the Czech Republic.

As one of the hosts of Euro 2012, Poland will want to qualify for the knockout stages.The co-host is the lowest ranked team (Ranked 65 in the world) taking part in the tournament. Poland has never won a single match at European Championships.

Greece

Most of the meetings between Poland and Greece have been international friendlies,with the last one ending in a 0-0 draw early last year.The last competitive game took place in April 1987, where the Greeks won 1-0 in a European Championship qualification match.Poland beat Greece 1-0 in a friendly in 2004,a month before Greece became champions of Europe.

Czech Republic

Poland met Czech Republic in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.Each of the sides won their home match.Czech Republic lost 2-1 in Poland but  beat Poland in Prague.

Russia

Poland has met Russia three times in international friendly games.They have won once.

STAGE FRIGHT| EBI AND HIS BOYS FLOP AGAIN

Poland finished its qualifying campaign for EURO 2008 as group leaders ahead of Portugal. Ebi was the first Pole to score a goal against Portugal in 20 years, the previous one being by his late father. The former Dortmund and Bolton star scored 9 goals for Poland during the qualifiers for EURO 2008.Smolarek finished third overall top scorer in the qualifications but just like the 2006 FIFA World Cup failed to sore in a major tournament.Surprisingly the Poles managed to score only 1 goal at the main tournament.

Poland was in the same group with Germany, co-hosts Austria and Croatia. Poland lost their opening match of EURO 2008 by two goals to nil after two Lukas Podolski strikes killed the Smolarek’s men. In the second game Poland drew 1-1 with Austria. Roger Guerreiro scored Poland’s only goal of the tournament. In game 3 ,Croatia beat Poland 1–0 and eliminated them from the tournament.

Household names like Artur Boruc , Jacek Krzynówek and Maciej Żurawski all failed to shine at the EUROS.They were perhaps not ready for the ‘big stage’

Even though the Biało-czerwoni have lost the prolific duo of Polish born strikers Klose and Podolski to Germany, the Polish fans are still optimistic they will score goals with new striking sensation Lewandowski in the form of his life.

Poland’s  recent impressive results were draws against Germany and Portugal and a win over Argentina.Franciszek Smuda’s side have only lost two of their last 10 games, to Italy and France.

PAST RECORD IN THE EUROS 

1960

Did not qualify

1988

Did not qualify

1964

Did not qualify

1992

Did not qualify

1968

Did not qualify

1996

Did not qualify

1972

Did not qualify

2000

Did not qualify

1976

Did not qualify

2004

Did not qualify

1980

Did not qualify

2008

Group stage

1984

Did not qualify

2012

Qualified as host nation

THE BOSS | FRANCISZEK SMUDA

I told him that the circumstances of Peszko’s arrest were bizarre. And one person, that taxi driver, shouldn’t have a role in shaping Poland’s team for the European Championship.Peszko is out, as this was a repeat offence. He won’t be in my team. End of story,” Franciszek Smuda

The manager Franciszek Smuda had to finally get this job. He replaced Leo Beenhakker after the Dutchman failed to guide the team to the South Africa.

Smuda is a disciplinarian and a few players have already been shown the exit.Just 48 days before Euro 2012, Slawomir Peszko and Marcin Wasilewski were both thrown out from the Polish national team after late night partying and ending up in police custody. The pair have been banned from taking part in Euro 2012 after a drunken row with a taxi driver.It is not the first time the disciplinarian decided to ban players for drinking-related problems. In September 2010,  Smuda banned Artur Boruc and Michal Zewlakow from the team for drinking on the plane while retuning from Canada.

Smuda has a wealth of managerial experience, having coached in Germany and Turkey.The 63-year-old won the Polish Cup with Lech Poznan. Everything is there to give Poland a successful Euro, especially the home crowd and the group without any European super weights. Poland still needs to complete their first win in the competition history, which they hope to do in the Euro 2012 opening match against Greece.

Smuda listed 30 players who have the best chance to represent Poland at Euro 2012 this summer. However, Smuda underlined the selection is still not closed.The Euro 2012 official roster will feature 23 players. Smuda will take 26 players to the Austria-camp in May. Three players will be cut from the roster that will make up the Euro 2012 roster.Now that Cologne’s Slawomir Peszko has been dropped from the team,Smuda’s work will be much easier.

Here are the 30 players (now 28) who have the best shot at Euro:

Goalkeepers: Lukasz Fabianski, Przemyslaw Tyton, Grzegorz Sandomierski, Wojciech Szczesny

Defenders: Sebastian Boenisch, Arkadiusz Glowacki, Kamil Glik, Tomasz Jodlowiec, Damien Perquis, Lukasz Piszczek, Maciej Sadlok, Marcin Wasilewski, Jakub Wawrzyniak, Grzegorz Wojtkowiak

Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski, Dariusz Dudka, Adam Matuszczyk, Adrian Mierzejewski, Sebasian Mila, Rafal Murawski, Ludovic Obraniak, Slawomir Peszko (dropped), Eugen Polanski, Maciej Rybus, Cezary Wilk

Forwards: Pawel Brozek, Kamil Grosicki, Ireneusz Jelen, Robert Lewandowski, Artur Sobiech

TRINITY | KUBA,LEWA & LUKA

‘We are happy that the best Polish internationals are playing here,’-Mats Hummels (Dortmund)

Poland will have three perfect footballers by the time EURO kicks off” as Dortmund’s trio of players continue to impress. Since the Polish trio of Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek formed in the summer of 2010, it seems like Borussia Dortumnd can not lose.

They have already won one Bundesliga title and are on their way of winning another one. Here are some stats and facts I found since the Polish trio formed. These stats will change as there are still four matches left in the season. The stats are only for league play. Cup and European actions were not counted. Borussia Dortmund have only lost 8 games in two seasons. They lost a total of 9 games in the 2009-2010 season.

 THE CAPTAIN | JAKUB ‘KUBA’ BLASZCZYKOWSKI

‘Kuba is a true captain, not only on the pitch but also in the dressing room.’- Smuda

Former Olympiacos FC defender Michał Żewłakow and Poland’s most capped player with 102 caps retired from international football a year ago. A new generation of Polish players have since emerged. Named captain of the national team two years ago Blaszczykowski has been instrumental to Poland’s meteoric rise. Kuba as he is affectionately called by the Borussia Dortmund fans made his national team debut in 2006, months before the 2006 FIFA World Cup but did not make the trip to Germany. The player with perhaps the most complicated surname among the Euro 2012 participants has scored 8 goals in 49 caps. Kuba missed Euro 2008 due to injury and he had to withdraw.

The Polish captain scored first international in a friendly against Russia five years ago. Kuba would love to meet Arshavin’s men again as he might be second time lucky.

Kuba was the best midfielder in the Polish league (Ekstraklasa Midfielder of the Year: 2006) when he was still a WisłaKraków player. A great achievement for a lad who was only 20 years old. He joined Borussia Dortmund the following season where he became fan-favorite and received the Player of the Year award for the year 2008.He was also crowned Polish Footballer of the Year in 2008. He was also voted Footballer of the Year by the readers of “Sport’’ in 2008 and 2010 in Poland.

Previously an undisputed regular, Blaszczykowski found himself benched earlier this season yet bounced back to emerge as an ideal replacement for the injured Mario Götze. Kuba is one half of Dortmund’s dynamic right flank with Piszczek filling in at full-back. Blaszczykowski is tied for third on the most assists list. He has 8 assists for the season. He is only behind Franck Ribery and Juan Arango (both 11).Part of the Bundesliga-winning Dortmund side last season, Blaszczykowski has made well over 100 appearances for the club since joining them in 2007.

Kuba has been in great from for Dortmund this season helping his side complete the double over Bayern this season. Kuba has scored 3 Bundesliga goals this season and one in the UEFA Champions League. Only a miracle will prevent Dortmund from defending their Bundesliga crown. Dortmund will meet Bayern for the third time this season in the German Cup Final.

Polands’s fortunes at Switzerland and Austria four years ago would have been different if Blaszczykowski had not been injured.Kuba will definitely be in the 23 man team but Polish fans should pray that their captain does not get injured this time. After an excellent season with his German club, Blaszczykowski is more than confident to bring success to his national team.

THE MAIN MAN | ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

“He [Robert Lewandowski] is an exceptional player with outstanding talent.”-Jugen Klopp,coach of Dortmund.

Lewandowski has scored 20 goals in 31 Bundesliga appearances this season, twelve more than what he scored in the 2010-11 campaign. Lewandowski tied Jan Furtok’s record for most goals scored by a Polish player in the Bundesliga. Furtok scored 20 goals during the 1990-1991 season for Hamburger SV.His 20th goal was his most important one as it was against Record German champions Bayern Munich a week ago. The Pole has scored 25 goals this season. All of this after he endured a difficult spell last season following his switch from KKS Lech Poznań .Lewandowski has become Klopp’s main striker this season after playing second fiddle to Lucas Barrios last season in a system that featured only one centre-forward. The Paraguayan returned from the Copa America late and out of shape. Lewandowski seized his chance and has become a regular fixture in Klopp’s side. Lewandowski (20) sits third in the Bundesliga Top Scorer race. He is only behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (24) and Mario Gomez (25).

He has been a Polish international since 2008 and scored on his debut when he was only 20 years old. He has scored 13 goals in 40 caps and needs only 7 goals more to equal Euzebiusz Smolarek and Dariusz Dziekanowski’s tally of 20. He is likely to become one of Poland’s all-time top scorers in the near future if he continues scoring goals at this rate.

The 23 year old has already won a host of individual awards. The striker was voted Polish Player of the Year in 2011. He hold the record of being topscorer in every Polish division. At 18, he was already making a name for himself. He was the II Liga (3rd tier of Polish football) top scorer in 2006–07 season with 15 goals. The following season he top scored the I Liga (2nd tier of Polish football) with 21 goals. He was voted the Polish Revelation of the Year when he joined one of Poland’s greatest sides Lech Poznań. A team City fans will forever be grateful to for the Poznan celebration.

Lewangoalski, as fans love to call him, earned a move to Dortmund after being voted the Ekstraklasa Player of the Year in 2009 and top scorer in the 2009/10 season (18 goals) .His scoring record has been on the same high level wherever he has appeared.

Robert Lewandowski has  questioned Smuda’s tactical choices on several occasions and last week criticised his decision to axe midfielder Slawomir Peszko from the Euro 2012 co-hosts’ squad after a drink-fuelled dispute with a taxi driver. .

If Lewandowski can carry his good form with Dortmund into EUROS, Poland will have some real firepower at their disposal.

MR VERSATILITY |  LUKASZ PISZCZEK

“I can promise Polish fans that Kuba, Robert and Łukasz are still to reach the top of their game,” -Klopp 

Piszczek’s equalizer against Schalke 04 in Saturday’s derby was the turning point of the game. The ex-Hertha BSC right wing back (26) has been capped 21 times by Poland and is yet to score at international level. Surprisingly, he replaced his injured Dortmund teammate Jakub Błaszczykowski in the Polish squad for Euro 2008. He made one appearance in the tournament but was injured in the training session for the next game and took no further part in the tournament. Piszczek has established himself as one of Europe’s best right-backs.

Originally a striker, Łukasz Piszczek (26) joined Dortmund from Hertha BSC Berlin in May 2010 and soon became a fixture in the side. He has thus earned a new contract that will keep him at the club till 2016. On 19 May 2010, he moved to Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer, signing a contract until June 2013.

He was the top scorer  of the EURO 2004  U-19 Championships and joined  Hertha BSC that year.He was loaned out to Zagłębie Lubin in Poland . He scored 11 goals in his last season there and helped his team win the 2006/07 Ekstraklasa.

At Hertha, Piszczek initially played as a right midfielder or on the left wing .Piszczek became an emergency right back for Hertha when Arne Friedrich got injured in his second season at the German capital. Since then, Piszczek has remained a right back.

 

WENGER’S GUNNERS  | SMUDA’S HEADACHE

“I believe Lukasz [Fabianski] is the best No 2 in the country. Every time he goes in goal the team is confident he will do a good job, and to have someone like that behind you gives you a lot of motivation to work hard at the training ground.I know I have to be at my very best in every game because he is waiting to take my spot. It helps keep you sharp and to be at your very best.I am 22 years old and I don’t think I am the established No 1; I still need to prove myself at this Club.If we have this conversation in a few years’ time and I have played 500 games, then I will feel established as the No 1. There is still a long way to go.”- Szczesny

In Poland, they produce some fantastic goalkeepers.Just have a look at this list .

Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal)
Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal)
Tomasz Kuszczak (Watford on loan from Manchester United.)
Artur Boruc (AC Fiorentina)
Lukasz Zaluska (Celtic Glasgow)

Bartosz Bialkowski (Southampton)
Przemyslaw Tyton (PSV Eindhoven)
Grzegorz Sandomierski (Jagiellonia Białystok loan from K.R.C. Genk.)
Pawel Kieszek (Roda JC on loan from F.C. Porto )
Mateusz Prus(Roda JC)


The likes of  Fiorentina goalkeeper Artur Boruc and Watford’s (on loan from Manchester United) Tomasz Kuszczak have lost their place in the national team to their more compatriots.Smuda might not call up the experienced duo for the EUROS because a certain 22 year old goalie has become Arsene Wenger’s number one.Fabianski, Tyton, Grzegorz Sandomierski and Szczesny were the 4 goalkeepers named in his ‘Good Books’. Who should Smuda drop?

EMERGING TALENT | WOJCIECH SZCZESNY

“We have the boss and we also know who the boss is in the dressing room – and that’s Arsene Wenger, obviously, and Robin van Persie, who is the leader in the team” -Wojciech Szczesny

I thought Arsene Wenger was making the biggest mistake of his life when he gave Wojciech Tomasz Szczęsny his English Premier League debut in the 1–0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford almost two years ago.Szczesny did not disappoint and has leapfrogged compatriot Lukasz Fabianski for the No.1 shirt at Arsenal. He has kept 12 clean sheets in 33 EPL games this season. His remarkable agility and command of his area led to his establishment as Arsenal’s first choice at just 20 years of age Szczesny now looks set to start between the sticks at Euro 2012.

Szczesny has to thank Legia Warsaw’s goalkeeping coach Krzysztof Dowhań, the man who set him on the road to success. Szczęsny trained at Agrykola Warsaw as a young player. Dowhań, was so impressed with the young keeper, he allowed him to take part in a training camp with Legia’s first team at the age of 15, joining them afterwards.
Dowhań has worked at Legia Warsaw for many years and taught Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny and former Poland No 1 Artur Boruc their trade before the trio moved to Britain.Arsenal are reaping the rewards of Dowhań’s tutelage with Fabianski and Szczesny both shining for the first team this season.

Szczęsny made his international debut in 2009.He made man of the match saves  in Poland’s 2-2 draw against the German national team last year. His performance in this match earned him praise from former German international goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn.Szczesny and Fabianski’s fight for the number 1 shirt is reminiscent of the Kahn-Lehmann rivalry.

Szczesny who turned 22 days ago is in good stead to become one of the leading talents in his position for several years to come.

BACK UP | LUKASZ FABIANSKI

“I want to play, and like we all do, I’ll fight as hard as I can to get as many chances as possible” -Lukasz Fabianski

A Polish international since 2006, Łukasz Fabiański has always been Artur Boruc’s back up since their Legia Warsaw days and now that the more experienced Boruc does not receive call ups from Smuda,Scezny has stolen his ‘inheritance’. A squad member of the 2006 World Cup and EURO 2008,the Gunner has amassed  20 caps for Poland.

After Boruc was sold to Celtic in 2005, Fabiański became numberr 1 and helped Legia win the Polish league championship in 2006.In the 2006 and 2007 seasons, he was voted the best goalkeeper in the Polish Ekstraklasa.

He has been criticised for conceding soft goals.Last year, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury as he was warming up with the help of Wojciech Szczęsny which ruled him out for the rest of the season.Fabianski is Szczęsny’s backup at Arsenal and Poland and he has  issued a warning to Szczęsny that he is ready to challenge  him  for the number 1 spot.

He has made 6 appearances for Arsenal this season.He’s conceded 8 goals so far.

UNLUCKY MAN | PRZEMYSLAW TYTON

  “We don’t want him [Heurelho Gomes]. We are really happy with Przemyslaw Tyton as our number one keeper.’’- PSV Technical director Marcel Brands

Winner of the Dutch KNVB Cup cup two weeks ago with PSV Eindhoven, 25 year old Przemysław Tytoń will fight for a place in Smuda’s final 23.PSV Eindhoven’s number 1 made his national team debut in 2009 and has 5 caps for his country.

Przemyslaw Tyton replaced Andreas Isaksson between the sticks as first choice goalkeeper as Isaksson seems to be struggling with his form.Tyton, who arrived at Philips Stadion earlier this season on loan after making 46 appearances for Roda JC Kerkrade, signed a four year contract with PSV in January 2012.

The ex-Roda JC goalkeeper was listed as the second best goalkeeper, only behind Maarten Stekelenburg  last season.Tyton has been injured so many times in his career and in September last year, he suffered a serious concussion when he collided with a teammate during the match between PSV and Ajax.

HOT CAKE | GRZEGORZ SANDOMIERSKI

  First of all I want to play and to prove that Genk were right to sign me. I want to play at the top level.-Grzegorz Sandomierski

Greece's Kostandinos Mitroglou tries to score past Poland's Grzegorz Sandomierski

This season 22-year-old Polish goalkeeper Grzegorz Sandomierski completed his transfer to Genk .Genk parted with one great future talent Thibaut Courtois , who signed a five-year-deal with Chelsea, and signed another.Sandomierski was loaned back to his former side.

While Sandomierski was signed to replace Courtois at Genk but, the Chelsea signing was  sent on a loan deal to Atletico Madrid in order to replace the departure of David De Gea to Manchester United.Prior to signing Courtois, Chelsea were actually targeting Sandomierski as a future replacement to Petr Cech.The Blues had been following the lad closely and were confident they could beat off interest from Juventus, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Man City and Tottenham but he eventually moved to Belgium.
Sandomierski began his career at Jagiellonia Bialystok’s youth academy, later starting in their reserves squad when he was 16 years old.In 2007 after a short loan to Lech Poznan’s reserve squad, he returned to Jagiellonia and opened in his first senior match. In 2009 he was loaned out to Ruch Wysokie Mazowieckie to gain more experience.In the 2009/10 season, Sandomierski broke the club’s record of minutes without conceding a goal. His streak lasted 564 minutes.
The youngster is excellent in one-on-one situations and although very tall, he is also very athletic and can use his whole body in order to protect the net.Sandomierski is considered to be one of the most talented goalkeepers in Poland.Sandomierski made two world class saves as Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland drew 0-0 with Greece in a friendly last year.
Sandomierski, who was given the traditional shirt number 1 at Genk , should gradually become Genk ‘s first choice for the coming years and prove himself at the Belgian Pro League.Sandomierski has played for all of Poland’s youth sides and he was also capped for the senior national side, representing Poland in five friendly matches.His biggest contenders for the role of Polish first choice goalkeeper, are Arsenal keepers Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny. UEFA.com recently named Sandomierski as one of the ten players who could potentially shine at EURO 2012 next summer.

The host nation has to be in the tournament as long as possible.EURO 2012 will be Smuda’s biggest test

This article was written by Nana Abiri (@NOKA88)
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