Poland will look to talisman Robert Lewandowski to improve their paltry European Championship goalscoring returns when they face Slovakia in Euro 2020 Group E.
In their 11 previous matches at the finals, Poland have never scored more than one goal, while they also have a habit of making sluggish starts.
A 1-0 win over Northern Ireland at Euro 2016 was their only win in the past nine tournament openers, with four draws and four defeats elsewhere.
Arkadiusz Milik scored the winner in Nice five year ago, but the 27-year-old forward’s subsequent wretched luck with knee injuries struck again this week as he was ruled out of Poland’s forthcoming campaign.
Head coach Paulo Sousa has elected not to call up a replacement, placing even more emphasis on Bayern Munich superstar Lewandowski.
The 32-year-old broke Gerd Muller’s 49-year-old Bundesliga record by scoring 41 goals in just 29 league games this season, with an overall return of 48 in 40 for Bayern in 2020-21.
“It’s a big challenge, not just for me, but for the whole team,” Lech Poznan centre-back Lubomir Satka, who will be tasked with trying to shackle Lewandowski, told UEFA.com
“I hope the other guys will help me.”
Once upon a time, that task would have been one for Martin Skrtel and the former Slovakia and Liverpool defender is cautiously optimistic over his compatriots’ hopes in a tough group that also features Spain and Sweden.
“Everything is possible,” he told SPORT. “I don’t want to guess, but if we were second to the Spanish, it would be great.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Poland – Robert Lewandowski
His exploits this season took him on to a staggering 277 Bundesliga goals, meaning Lewandowski is only behind Muller (365) in the all-time standings. However, eight previous Euro appearances have yielded only two goals. Surely that record is about to improve for the leading centre-forward in world football?
Slovakia – Juraj Kucka
If Slovakia are to upset the odds, expect Parma’s Kucka to be involved. In fact, irrespective of the result, the 34-year-old midfielder is likely to be reasonably visible. He was involved in nine of his club’s 39 Serie A goals this season, with seven goals and two assists, while his 15 tackles per-game were the highest average of any midfielder in Italy’s top flight.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Slovakia have won just one of their four previous matches at the European Championship, beating Russia 2-1 in their second match back in 2016.
– Slovakia are making their third appearance at a major tournament, after World Cup 2010 and Euro 2016. They were eliminated in the round of 16 in both of those tournaments.
– Poland were the only team never to trail at any point of a game at Euro 2016 in normal or extra time. They were knocked out on penalties by Portugal in the quarter-finals.
– In March 2021, Kacper Kozlowski became the youngest player to play for the Poland at 17 years and 163 days. He is also the second youngest player to play in the Polish Ekstraklasa (15y 215d).
– Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (101) this season became the third Slovakian to surpass 100 Premier League appearances after Skrtel (242) and Szilard Nemeth (117).
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