With Scotland the next visitors to Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy on Wednesday, Poland coach Adam Nawałka has yet another chance to tinker with his squad in order to find the winning formula ahead of autumn’s first European Championship qualifiers. Following Wednesday’s clash with the Tartan Army, the former Górnik Zabrze and Wisła Kraków manager has just the tie with another Group D rival Germany, and a June home clash with neighbouring Lithuania, before their Euro 2016 campaign kicks off with a trip to Portugal to face Gibraltar.
There was a hope that Nawałka would give a glimpse into how his side would line-up for the European Championship qualifiers during the clash on the banks of the Wisla river; but with the two sides being drawn together in Group D, and the key men in Dortmund pair of Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Błaszczykowski ruled out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a little experimentation within the starting line-up.
Whilst there are a few familiar names within the Poland setup, the majority will be largely unknown on British shores. And with the two biggest names – both in stature, and in length – set to miss the game through injury, Scotland fans could be forgiven for thinking that the friendly may have been made a little easier.
But what of the rest of the White Eagles’ side? Is there anybody left in the squad who can cause Scotland problems? Well here’s five names who potentially can
Whilst many won’t be aware of 20 year-old Milik, just over a year ago his performances for Górnik Zabrze made him one of the most sought-after young strikers in Europe – attracting the attention of clubs from the Premier League and Serie A amongst others. Eventually putting put pen-to-paper on a deal with German giants Bayer Leverkusen, and being loaned to Augsburg, he hasn’t quite made the impact as he did in the Ekstraklasa. But even so, he wasn’t branded as the “New Lubański” for no reason at all…
As well as topping the Ekstraklasa scoring charts before leaving his homeland, Milik has also been in sterling form for Poland’s Under 21 side as they attempt to reach next year’s European Championships in neighbouring Czech Republic. With an incredible nine goals in six appearances, including back-to-back hat-tricks against Malta and Greece, Milik has propelled Poland to the top of Group 7 – albeit with Turkey five points behind and sporting two games in hand.
Robert Lewandowski may not be available for the Warsaw clash, but Scotland shouldn’t necessarily breathe easily – young Arek has more than enough talent to cause their back line problems.
If there was a list of Polish players who had shot to prominence over the last year-or-two, there is a good chance that 26 year-old Waldek would be top of it. Helping to guide Śląsk Wrocław to three successive Ekstraklasa podiums (2010/11 – 2nd, 2011/12 – 1st, 2012/13 – 3rd), he earned his long-awaited move abroad to Club Brugge by helping to knock the Belgian giants out of this season’s Europa League at the qualifying stage.
With extremely stiff competition for the attacking midfield spots from the likes of Maciej Rybus, Mateusz Klich and Adrian Mierzejewski; Sobota stormed his way into the national team under Waldemar Fornalik, and shows no sign of giving away that left-sided spot any time soon.
Sobota’s ability to see attacking players’ movements and pick out a pass is almost like a sixth sense. Should Scotland allow him space in an advanced position, they’ll need to watch out for a neat through-ball – on more than a number of occasions Sobota’s passing has carved open defences.
The towering centre-back came to prominence in the national team just after Poland’s dismal Euro 2012 campaign. With Damien Perquis out injured, Torino’s Glik was brought in to fill the gap; and both his performance and his equaliser against England meant that when the French-born Perquis returned to fitness, there was no way back into the team for him.
Since his move to Italy after spells with Piast Gliwice, Real Madrid Castilla and Palermo; Glik has become one of Torino’s key players – earning the captaincy, and becoming a fan-favourite at the city’s second club. The 6ft 3in defender has also formed a commanding centre-back partnership with Steaua Bucuresti’s Łukasz Szukała, with no-one coming close to ousting them.
Glik, who even has had a song written about him by an Italian rap group, now finds himself as one of the first names on the Poland teamsheet. Whilst not as adept at playing on the ground, with an aerial threat from set pieces at both ends of the field, Scottish defenders and attackers won’t like to see him heading their way.
A new addition to the Poland squad under Adam Nawałka, Legia Warszawa left-back Brzyski was a welcome inclusion to the Reprzentacja for the autumn friendlies with Ireland and Slovakia after previous struggles in the position. Both Sebastian Boenisch (Leverkusen) and Jakub Wawrzyniak (formerly Legia, now Amkar Perm) had opportunities to make the spot their own under both Fornalik and his predecessor Franciszek Smuda, however high-profile mistakes from them both led to Fornalik even experimenting with a right-back on the opposite side. As you can imagine, it wasn’t hugely successful.
But now with Brzyski, they seemingly have a left-back who is as capable of contributing to the attack as Piszczek is on the right side. The full-back’s move to Legia from cross-town rivals Polonia was met with much criticism last year, but currently sitting top of the Ekstraklasa’s assists chart, it doesn’t seem to have affected him in the slightest. He’s now highly-regarded at the Wojskowi; so-much-so that when Wawrzyniak left the club this winter, hardly an eyelash was batted.
Looking set to link up with the man in front of him on the left, the Scots will need to be well aware of his ability to cross a ball. Whilst the Poles were renowned for their Dortmund trip linking up on the right, it seems that they might actually have found someone who can make them more balanced.
By far-and-away the most controversial name on the Polish teamsheet, French-born Ludovic Obraniak’s recent international history has left a lot to be desired. Having never lived in Poland, Obraniak’s Polish-language skills an ability to integrate with the rest of the squad have been a constant fuel for the media fire aimed towards him; and when a red card in a 2012 World Cup Qualifier in Montenegro led captain Błaszczykowski to publicly criticise the midfielder, the furore quickly spiralled out of control.
Whilst he was called into Waldemar Fornalik’s next few squads, a substitute appearance in the 3-1 defeat to Ukraine almost a year ago proved to be his last. Vowing never to return to the Polish squad whilst under it’s current management, Obraniak’s international exile begun.
But with a new coach comes new opportunities, and with Adam Nawałka comes a reprieve for the attacking midfielder. Missing out on November’s friendlies against Slovakia and Ireland due to his wife giving birth, the Scotland clash will be Obraniak’s big return to the Reprezentacja; and he has a lot to prove.
Werder Bremen midfielder Obraniak could be the key in getting Poland to click, if he can find a way to link up well with Lewandowski. The pair have previously had something of a frosty relationship; however if the can manage to work together it could be a massive development for the Poles going into qualifying.
But in the meantime; with a thunderous left foot, expect him to be hovering around free-kicks and willing to have a go from the edge of the box – he has the potential to cause massive headaches for the Scottish keeper.
Poland v Scotland takes place in Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy, and kicks off at 20:30 CET (19:30 UK). If you are in the UK, you can watch the game live at DailyRecord.co.uk
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