Smuda’s 26: Who is Who…

Late on Wednesday, Poland National Team coach Franciszek Smuda named the 26 players who will be heading to the training camps in Turkey and Austria, as well as 7 reserves who will train with the squad for the first part of the team’s preparations. With warm-up games in Austria against Latvia and Slovakia, before Smuda chooses who progresses to his final 23, there is a great opportunity for the fringe players to seal a room in Warsaw’s Hyatt Hotel for the tournament. Here are the 26 names that Franciszek Smuda will run the rule over in the coming weeks.

Wojciech Szczęsny (Arsenal)

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 22 – Caps: 9

Over the last year-and-a-half, young Wojtek has established himself, not only as the first-choice keeper at Arsenal, but as his country’s number one stopper. Even with a leaky defence in front of him, his performances have led him to become one of the most valued keepers in the Premier League; and he will almost definitely be one of the first names of Smuda’s team-sheet for the opening game against Greece.

Łukasz Fabiański (Arsenal):

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 27 – Caps: 20

Like at his club, Łukasz will likely to make do with playing second fiddle to the younger Szczęsny for the duration of the tournament. With only five first-team appearances over the course of the season (all of them in the cup), his lack of playing time is a constant headache for Smuda – as well as most Poles. Given a good run for another club, Fabiański may have a chance of ousting Szczęsny from between the posts. His call-up was never really in doubt, but for now he’ll have to make do as the back-up.
Przemysław Tytoń (PSV Eindhoven)

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 25 – Caps: 5

It’s been a decent season for Poland’s third keeper Przemysław Tytoń after his summer move from Roda JC. With stiff competition between the sticks from Swedish national stopper Andreas Isaksson, Przemek has earned his stripes after returning from a nasty injury obtained against Ajax back in September; and is currently a regular starter at the Philips Stadion. He will however need a bad series of injuries to the Arsenal pair to be involved during the tournament.

Damien Perquis (Sochaux):

Position: Defender

Age: 28 – Caps 5

The French-born centre-back will head into Euro 2012 having been a Polish citizen for less than twelve months, but he is already regarded as one of the country’s most important defenders. With Sochaux sitting firmly in the relegation zone of Ligue 1, Perquis has been unable to contribute to his side’s plight after suffering a broken arm in early March. Nevertheless, Smuda’s first-choice defender is likely to be ready to face the Greeks on June 8th.

Łukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund):

Position: Defender

Age: 26 – Caps: 21

An integral part of Dortmund’s championship winning back-line, Łukasz Piszczek has started all but two of the side’s 33 Bundesliga games so far – chipping in with 5 goals along the way. His form has led him to become known as one of the best full-backs in the country. There was never any doubt in his selection, and the only reason he won’t play 270 minutes in the group stage is if he were to suffer an injury.

Marcin Wasilewski (Anderlecht):

Position: Defender

Age: 31 – Caps: 45

After his horrific leg-break back in 2009, Marcin has returned to full strength, and is an integral part of the Anderlecht defence – playing 30 times in the league this season. The centre-back’s season was temporarily put on-hold in April after he was handed a ban for an elbow on STVV attacker Peter Delorge; and he was caught up in more controversy after it was revealed that he was with FC Koln midfielder Slawomir Peszko when he was arrested after an alleged assault on a taxi driver. Whilst Peszko was kicked out of Smuda’s plans for Euro 2012, Wasilewski was deemed to have done nothing wrong by the coach, and finds his way into the 32.

Kamil Glik (Torino):

Position: Defender

Age: 24 – Caps: 11

After his €1.5 million transfer from Piast Gliwice to Palermo, things never quite clicked for young Kamil in Serie A; however a loan move to Bari helped him to progress, and in the summer he signed for another Serie B side – Torino. In Italy’s Motor Capital he has established himself as a first team regular, and even recently picked up his first two goals for the club. They now sit top of the Serie B table, on the brink of a promotion back to the big time.

Sebastian Boenisch (Werder Bremen):

Position: Defender

Age: 25 – Caps: 3

Like Łukasz Podolski, Werder full-back Boenisch was also born in the Polish-Silesian city of Gliwice, before his family moved to Germany whilst he was young. But despite playing for the German U20 and U21 squads – even winning the Euro 2009 U21 final against England – Boenisch eventually chose to represent his nation of birth, making his début in a 1-1 draw with Ukraine. Despite his talent, injuries have stalled Sebastian’s career, and he has struggled to even make appearances for the Werder II side in the 3.Liga. Upon returning to a first-team staring berth in April, he received his marching orders early on in a Bundesliga game against Moenchengladbach; and recently returned as an unused substitute against Wolfsburg.

Jakub Wawrzyniak (Legia Warszawa):

Position: Defender

Age: 28 – Caps: 24

At the heart of Legia’s defence, Jakub has missed only one of his club’s league games this season, helping them to a top-four spot as well as a Puchar Polski victory. His presence in the back line is a major factor in the club having the best defence in the Polish Ekstraklasa – conceding a mere 17 goals in their 98 games so far. Wawrzyniak will face massive competition with Perquis and Wasilewski for a spot at centre-back; but as he can also play as a left-back, he will be challenging Boenisch for a spot in the starting eleven.

Marcin Kamiński (Lech Poznań):

Position: Defender

Age: 20 – Caps: 1

As Franciszek Smuda looks to bring a little more youth through the system to eventually replace players such as Wasilewski and Głowacki, young Lech defender Marcin Kamiński is a fantastic candidate for the future. Having broken into the Kolejorz side in 2009/10, Marcin made four league appearances before only making the bench during 2010/11. This year though has proved to be the making of the young man from Konin, making 26 appearances – only bettered by their star striker Artjom Rudnev.

Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (Lech Poznań):

Position: Defender

Age: 28 – Caps: 17

With 21 league appearances, there is no doubt that Grzegorz Wojtkowiak has been an important part of the Lech Poznań defence during their late push for the Ekstraklasa title. Having recently signed a pre-contract agreement with German club 1860 Munich, it only goes to show that his performances are catching the eyes of clubs further afield than his native league. But with so much competition for a starting berth in the national squad, Grzegorz may find it difficult to add to his 17 caps, and he could struggle to even make it into Smuda’s final 23.

Tomasz Jodłowiec (Polonia Warszawa):

Position: Defender

Age: 26 – Caps: 22

Despite being a regular for Polonia Warszawa over the last three seasons, it is a struggle to see where Jodłowiec will fit into Smuda’s plans. Whilst he doesn’t have much chance of appearing ahead of Perquis, Wasilewski and Wawrzyniak, there is also an option to move him into a defensive-midfield role. However it is extremely likely he would be a back-up here too, an despite his qualities, his call-up seems to be to make up the numbers rather than to provide a significant contribution to the side.

Jakub Błaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 26 – Caps: 49

Whilst we have a pretty good idea of who will be selected by Smuda for the opening game in Warsaw, there is no question over the inclusion of Poland’s “Captain Fantastic” Jakub Błaszczykowski. Off the back of an impressive second-successive Bundesliga title with Dortmund, Kuba will be brimming with confidence as he leads the side out against Greece. After falling out of favour with Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, there were rumours of a return to Poland to assure his fitness ahead of the summer. But his eagerness to stay and fight in Germany proved successful, as he steadily became an important part of the club’s attack. With four goals and countless assists, Kuba is hitting the perfect form ahead of his most important summer yet.

Dariusz Dudka (Auxerre):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 28 – Caps: 60

After moving to the middle of France four years ago, Dariusz Dudka has become an integral part of the Auxerre midfield. In his spell at the club he has made over 100 appearances, even helping them to reach the Champions League group stages last season. This term though has not quite matched previous years for the club, as Auxerre sit just one position above the drop zone, level on points with three games to play. The defensive midfielder has however earned praise for his performances at the struggling club, his recent showings being described as “solid in a poor team”. Earmarked as a potential starter in Smuda’s team, his solid performances will have to continue.

Eugen Polański (Mainz):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 26 – Caps: 4

Another Silesian who represented Germany at youth level, Eugeniusz Polański received the call-up to the Białe Orły in May of last year. His career started at Borussia Moenchengladbach, and after a spell at Spanish club Getafe, he eventually arrived at his current club Mainz in 2009. Making 25 appearance this season, Polański is fast becoming a fan-favourite at the Coface Arena – even chipping in with three goals. Battling with Dudka and Rafał Murawski for one of the possible 2 defensive midfield spots won’t be easy, but he should be a solid performer should he be called upon.

Maciej Rybus (Terek Grozny):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 22 – Caps: 16

At the tender age of 22, it goes some way to showing Łowicz-born Maciej Rybus’ talent that he already has 19 national caps to his name, as well as a recent big-money move to Russia where he is already impressing. After helping Legia Warszawa to last season’s Puchar Polski, his Ekstraklasa and Europa League performances caught the eye of Russian club Terek Grozny – who snapped him up for the small price of €2.7million. In Chechnya, two goals in nine games have already warmed him to the fans; and the call up to Smuda’s squad is more than deserved.

Ludovic Obraniak (Bordeaux):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 27 – Caps: 21

Limited to just 5 starts and seven substitute appearances (actually only completing 90 minutes once) during the first part of the season at Lille, Ludo was one player who heeded the warning from Franciszek Smuda that he would only pick players who were playing regularly. His move to Bordeaux worked out better than he could have hoped. Four goals in the fourteen league appearances following his one million Euro move, assured the French-born midfielder of his place in the Euro 2012 squad. During the competition, expect Ludovic to be one of Poland’s key performers.

Kamil Grosicki (Sivasspor):

Position: Midfielder/Striker

Age: 23 – Caps: 11

After his well documented disciplinary problems over the years, Kamil seems to have bucked up his ideas a little in Turkey. Since his move to sunnier climes in the winter of 2010/11, Grosicki has become a regular at Sivasspor – bagging 13 goals in his 55 league appearances. Usually deployed as a striker, his inclusion in the “midfielder” section of Smuda’s announcement could either show that the coach values him as the fifth best striker in the squad, or that he is more likely to be utilised as a winger. Either way, he has a lot to prove to be worthy of a space in Smuda’s final 23.

Rafał Wolski (Legia Warszawa):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 19 – Caps: 0

Although he made his début for Legia last season, young Rafał burst onto the scene in the Ekstraklasa with a goal against Widzew Łódź back in October – and since then his profile has grown and grown. Playing 31 times in all competitions for his club, the teenager is now one of the hottest prospects in Poland – even attracting interest from top European clubs. He may not have the biggest impact on this tournament, but his inclusion in the squad will do his progression a world of good.

Adam Matuszczyk (Fortuna Dusseldorf/FC Koln):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 23 – Caps: 17

Yet another Silesian who moved to Germany at a young age, midfielder Matuszczyk decided early on that he wanted to play for his country of birth. A winter loan move from Koln to 2.Bundesliga was supposed to bring him more playing time, however most of his time this season has been spent on the substitutes bench. One of the players fighting for a place in the 23.

Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 25 – Caps: 20

Leaving Polonia Warszawa last summer for an Ekstraklasa record of €5.25 million, Mierzejewski has struggled to make an impact since his arrival in Turkey. Without a single goal in his 35 appearances (18 starts), there was a small doubt over his inclusion in the squad. However his performances in the national squad against Portugal, Hungary and Italy, combined with Peszko’s dismissal from Smuda’s plans, assured the Olsztyn-born attacking midfielder of his spot.

Rafał Murawski (Lech Poznań):

Position: Midfielder

Age: 30 – Caps: 40

One of the “veterans” of the national team, 30-year-old Murawski has been an important part of the Lech Poznań squad for their late championship push. After starting 26 of the Kolejarz’s league games so far, the defensive midfielder will be battling with the younger Dariusz Dudka and Eugen Polański for his spot in the team. If called upon, recent performances have shown that Muraś is more than capable of strengthening the midfield.

Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund):

Position: Striker

Age: 23 – Caps: 40

What can we say about Robert Lewandowski that you won’t already know? Establishing himself as Dortmund’s – and the Bundesliga’s – top striker with 20 goals in 33 appearances, “Lewa” has become one of the most sought after players in Europe. With thirteen goals in the red and white of Poland, he is no doubt the national team’s key player ahead of Euro 2012. Oh, and he’s only 23!

Paweł Brożek (Trabzonspor/Celtic):

Position: Striker

Age: 29 – Caps: 32

One of the three main players who felt the need to move clubs ahead of the Championships, Paweł Brożek has struggled since his loan switch to Glasgow Celtic. Playing less than 400 minutes in total this season, Brożek could be considered a surprise inclusion in the squad by Smuda; but his form in the national team clearly swung the decision. Although not included in the squad for the friendly with Portugal, Brożek netted three times in the Polish white and red during 2011. If he can gain some match fitness before the competition, he could be very difficult to handle.

Michał Kucharczyk (Legia Warszawa):

Position: Striker

Age: 21 – Caps: 4

One of the big surprises in Franciszek Smuda’s 26-man squad was the inclusion of Legia’s Michał Kucharczyk over the more-experienced Ireneusz Jelen. But that isn’t to say his selection wasn’t deserved. Although his starting berth at Legia hasn’t been assured since the arrival of Nacho Novo and Ismael Blanco, Kucharczyk has impressed many thanks to his performances in the Ekstraklasa. Whether he makes the final 23 is yet to be decided; but like Wolski, he will benefit from being around the squad during the preparations.

Artur Sobiech (Hannover 96):

Position: Striker

Age: 21 – Caps: 3

Since his move from Polonia Warszawa last summer, Sobiech has struggled for playing time in the Bundesliga for Hannover. He hasn’t been able to replicate the form that earned him the €1.1 million move from the Polish capital; however the young striker has recently found himself as a regular substitute – a role that should he make the 23-man Euro squad, he may find himself in again.

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