England face a crucial World Cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley tonight.
A win will guarantee the Three Lions a place at next year’s World Cup finals, but the visitors certainly will not be pushovers and could provide stern opposition for Roy Hodgson’s team.
Poland do have a history of being party-poopers for the England national team. The most famous occasion came in qualification for the 1974 World Cup.
A fantastic display of goalkeeping from Jan Tomaszewski earned the Poles a 1-1 draw at Wembley and a place in the finals, denying England.
Poland finished in third place in the 1974 finals, their best ever performance at a World Cup to date. There will be no repeat of that performance for Poland in Brazil though, as Lewandowski and co. are already out of the running for qualification for the finals.
They will just be playing for pride and the chance to prevent England from making the finals. The 18,000 visiting supporters should provide enough inspiration and motivation for the Polish players to give the game everything they have.
Definitely not a ‘Clown’
At the time of that famous 1-1 draw legendary boss Brian Clough described Tomaszewski as a ‘clown’. I think it is fair to say that not many have described his modern counterpart Artur Boruc as a clown this season.
The Southampton keeper will be far better known to fans of both the SPL and Premier League, first playing for Celtic in Scotland and currently for the Saints in the top-flight. In fact Boruc’s Saints have the best defensive record in the English top-flight, having conceded just two goals in seven games so far this season.
Boruc is a very good goalkeeper and highly-rated and has played a big role in the Saints good defensive start to the season.
He certainly has it in his locker to keep England at bay, it just depends how well his defence perform against the likes of England quartet Andros Townsend, Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge.
Poland’s back-up keepers are not bad either with Arsenal pair Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski Boruc’s understudies for the Poles.
This Poland squad does contain some quality players. Their star players ply their trade in Germany, with both Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski playing their football for last season’s Champions League finalists Dortmund.
In Lewandowski they have one of the most highly-rated strikers in the European game. The striker has helped Dortmund become one of Europe’s best teams. His individual displays of brilliance, especially in the Champions League have led to him being linked with a move to the Premier League.
He looks to be destined to move to Dortmund’s arch-rivals Bayern Munich on a free transfer next summer, but he has recently admitted a liking for the Premier League. If he is yearning for a move to England then a good performance at Wembley tonight would do his chances of a move no harm.
Lewandowski has the skill and the intelligence to cause the England defences problems in tonight’s match. However, a lot will depend on the service he gets from the rest of the team and how the visitors set-up.
If the visitors set their stall out to be defensive then he may become isolated up front. However, Poland have nothing to lose so they may decide to take a more positive approach and attack the home side, that would mean Lewandowski getting more service.
Anybody expecting this game to be an easy one for Roy Hodgson’s side could be in for a shock. The Three Lions have not exactly set the world alight with their displays in qualifying and Poland do pose a real attacking threat.
However, England are heavy favourites at 1/4 for victory in this clash and the bookies are right most of the time. The home side have no room for complacency though and although Poland are long shots at 14/1, I would not completely write them off in this clash.
England have made it difficult for themselves in qualifying. What was supposed to be a relatively simple group has turned into a hard long slog. The Three Lions performance must improve, if as expected they qualify for next year’s World Cup finals.
The big teams in world football will present even more difficult challenges than the ones the likes of Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro had to offer. I am quite convinced that England will defeat Poland and qualify, but I doubt it will be an easy passage.
Can Poland cause a massive shock at Wembley?