Poland secured their place in the Euro 2020 finals recently by beating North Macedonia and finishing top of Group G.
Euro 2020 is going to be a unique event, scheduled to take place in several cities including Budapest. London, Rome, Munich, Baku, Dublin, Saint Petersburg, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Bilbao make up the remaining host cities.
Manager Jerzy Brzęczek has helped ensure that Poland will play at their fourth consecutive finals, hot on the heels of a disappointing World Cup campaign which saw them exit at the group stages.
Euro 2012: Poland eliminated by neighbouring Czech Republic
The win in North Macedonia secured their passage to the finals, but a hat trick by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski three days earlier set up the crucial encounter. A guide to the Euro 2020 qualifying stage details how Lewandowski is Poland’s biggest threat, and the striker is known as a big game player which will come in handy come the summer.
After debuting in the 2008 competition but going out with one draw and two defeats, Poland qualified for Euro 2012 as one of the hosts, along with Ukraine. They were drawn in Group A alongside Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic. After being held 1-1 by 2004 eventual winners Greece in the opening game, they failed to press on.
A 1-1 draw in Warsaw against Russia left them needing a win against the Czech Republic to go through, but Petr Jiráček’s 72nd winner eliminated them, with Lewandowski having an effort squirm wide, a goal which could have sent his country through to play Portugal.
Euro 2016: Through to the quarter-finals against Portugal
Four years later the Poles were back, qualifying as a runner up in a group including Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar. They finished just one point behind the Germans and beat them 2-0 in the first of their two encounters.
Lewandowski scored 13 goals in qualifying and was expected to thrive at the tournament, but he struggled to shine. He failed to score in the group stages, which saw his side paired with Northern Ireland, Ukraine and Germany once again.
Arkadiusz Milik got the only goal of their game against Northern Ireland, handing them their first-ever win at a European Championship tournament. After holding Germany to a 0-0 draw, Jakub Blaszczykowski’s strike against Ukraine earned them passage to the last 16. It wasn’t quite enough to bag the top spot though, which meant a game against Switzerland instead of Slovakia.
It was Blaszczykowski who impressed again, giving them the lead for much of the game. Xherdan Shaqiri leveled proceedings, sending the game into a penalty shoot-out. Lewandowski managed to hit the back of the net during the shoot-out, with Granit Xhaka’s miss sending Poland through to the quarter-finals.
Waiting there were Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Lewandowski finally lived up to his billing as a key player with a second-minute opener, but Renato Sanches leveled after 33 minutes, again sending the game into a penalty shoot-out. Blaszczykowski went from hero to villain, missing the vital spot-kick to send Portugal through and on to become champions.
If the same spirit can be harnessed from 2016, and talisman striker Lewandowski can find the form that deserted him in 2016, then Poland could well cause the big sides trouble next summer.
By Angela Daniels