Poland will make their first ever appearance in the European Championship Finals this summer after securing top spot in Group A. It is a remarkable achievement for a side that took just one point from their opening two home group games, starting their campaign with a 3-1 home defeat by Finland, followed by a 1-1 draw with Serbia.
However, a four game winning streak soon breathed new life into Poland’s hopes of clinching their place in Austria and Switzerland with a 2-1 victory over Portugal the highlight. Two goals from the prolific Ebi Smolarek proved crucial as Leo Beenhakker’s side recorded a 2-1 win in Chorzow, before Radoslaw Matusiak’s strike gave Poland a vital 1-0 win over Belgium in Brussels. With Finland and Portugal breathing down their necks, Poland continued their progress with comfortable victories over Azerbaijan and Armenia, although they did suffer a 1-0 defeat in Yerevan in the return fixture.
However, away draws against Portugal (2-2) and Finland (0-0) were followed by three consecutive victories, before a 2-2 draw in Belgrade against Serbia ensured their place in this summer’s finals. Qualification owed much to the goalscoring exploits of Racing Santander striker Ebi Smolarek, who scored nine times in 10 appearances for Beenhakker’s side.
The striker scored both goals in the crucial 2-1 home win over Portugal, before his double in the 2-0 win over Belgium sealed qualification. Poland’s hopes of success will rest on his shoulders and despite failing to repeat his international form on the domestic stage in Spain, Smolarek will be the man to fear when his side kick off their quest for European glory.
At the other end, Artur Boruc will also be looking to add to his burgeoning reputation as one of Europe’s top international goalkeepers. The Celtic ‘keeper played a starring role in his side’s run to the finals and will start the tournament as number one, despite the challenge of Arsenal youngster Lukasz Fabianski. Having played against some of the world’s best players in the Champions League, Boruc will not be overawed by the occasion and with the likes of the experienced Jacek Bak at the heart of the defence, Poland could prove a tough nut to crack.
Poland Euro 2008 Squad
Head coach: Leo Beenhakker
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