Poland’s involvement this summer will be the country’s fourth consecutive appearance at the European Championship since qualifying for this tournament for the first time in their history in 2008.
The biggest achievement to date was reaching the quarter-finals of the 2016 edition, where Biało-Czerwoni were eliminated by eventual winners Portugal in a penalty shootout.
While it may be difficult task to go that far this time around, the fans are certainly expecting the team to at least advance from the group stages, as Poland’s squad on paper seems stronger than both Sweden’s and Slovakia’s and does involve, of course, the world’s most prolific striker in Robert Lewandowski (€11.5m).
This tournament will also be a big test for the team’s coach Paulo Sousa, who replaced former manager Jerzy Brzęczek as late as January this year and has been in charge of the Poland national team for only three competitive matches so far.
In partnership with UEFA, we continue our series of EURO 2020 articles by examining Poland in detail to see if any of their players can compete for a place in your Fantasy teams.
Road to qualification
POLAND’S EURO 2020 QUALIFICATION RECORD
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Poland secured their place at EURO 2020 fairly comfortably, finishing first in a group consisting of Austria, Israel, Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, Slovenia and Latvia. During this phase, the Biało-Czerwoni scored 18 goals and kept seven clean sheets in ten matches. Lewandowkski contributed to the cause with six goals and two assists.
The likes of Lewandowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak (€6.0m), Kamil Glik (€5.5m) and Kamil Grosicki (unselected for EURO 2020) were the mainstays in Poland’s first team during Brzęczek’s tenure. Meanwhile, goalkeepers Wojciech Szczęsny (€5.0m) and Łukasz Fabiański (€5.0m) were regularly rotated by the former national team coach.
However, with Sousa in charge, many selection patterns we saw during qualifications are no longer valid, the Portuguese manager seeking to find new solutions and freshen up the team. For example, Szczęsny has started each of the three competitive matches under Sousa so far, while Grosicki has missed out on EURO 2020 altogether.
POLAND’S MATCHES IN 2020 AND 2021
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Even though the EURO 2020 qualification results were more than satisfactory, Brzęczek’s position as the national team coach started to be questioned following some disappointing performances in the UEFA Nations League.
The public opinion turned on the former manager as he refused to make tactical switches after underwhelming performances in losses against the Netherlands and Italy and also accused Brzęczek of favouritism towards certain players.
The new manager, Sousa, has been in charge of three competitive matches so far, recording one win (a 3-0 victory over Andorra), one draw (3-3 against Hungary) and one loss (a narrow 1-2 defeat against England at Wembley).
Those games, as well as the friendly draw against Russia last week, indicated that Sousa wants to fit the playing style strictly to the players at his disposal. While the data is clearly limited due to the short amount of time that Sousa has been given as Poland’s national, there are clear patterns emerging, as the manager attempts make the most of his best assets.
In order to compensate for the lack of natural wingers in the squad, as well as to maximise the potential in the stronger areas (especially central midfield), Poland under Sousa tend to start with four at the back.
However, in possession, the right-back, most likely Bartosz Bereszyński (€4.5m), is expected to join the two centre-backs, while the left-back, Maciej Rybus (€5.0m), moves further up the field, creating a 3-5-2 formation when in control of the ball. In the defensive phase, the team shape should revert back to a 4-5-1, with Piotr Zieliński (€7.0m) dropping deeper into midfield from a potential false-nine role.
It must be noted that, so far under Sousa, it was one of Arkadiusz Milik (€8.0m) or Krzysztof Piątek playing alongside Lewandowski but now that both will miss EURO 2020 due to injury, Zieliński looks the best bet to fill in up-front.
The key targets
Naturally, Robert Lewandowski is the standout Fantasy option. The Bayern Munich striker has been in the form of his life this season, breaking a 40-year Gerd Muller record by scoring 41 goals in only 29 Bundesliga matches.
He is as close as it gets to a talisman and whenever Poland score, he is expected to be involved. So far under Sousa, Lewandowski has scored three goals in two appearances, missing the World Cup qualifying defeat against England due to an injury.
One of the main criticisms of Brzęczek was his inability to get Lewandowski closer to the opposition’s box, as the Bayern Munich striker was often isolated and, as a result, often forced to drop deeper. With Sousa now in charge, we can expect the midfield trio of Krychowiak, Jakub Moder (€6.0m) and Mateusz Klich (€6.5m) to help with the construction of the team’s play, as well as the wide players to deliver a number of crosses from the byline every game – something that Lewandowski thrives on.
With the injury sustained by Milik, Zieliński emerges as an exciting Fantasy option. The Napoli man scored eight goals and provided 11 assist in 36 Serie A appearances this season, beating his personal best goal tally for a league campaign.
Due to the lack of strikers in the team, Zieliński could occupy a false-nine role alongside Lewandowski, making him a potential out-of-position option.
While his performances for the national team have often been criticised in the past, Zieliński is coming off a productive season in the Serie A and his advanced position should help him to provide more goals and assists than previously. At €7.0m, he is the midfielder to look out for.
The long shots
Winger Kamil Jóźwiak (€6.0m) could turn out to be one of the most exciting outside-of-the-box picks. The former Lech Poznań man had a mixed first season at Derby County, but his agility, dribbling ability and stamina may be key in Sousa’s system.
The right winger impressed after coming off the bench in the 3-3 against Hungary and his directness could be great for Fantasy managers.
Considering the lack of options for the right winger spot in the squad and given Jóźwiak’s versality, the Derby County player could get significant game-time in this tournament.
There are also a few solid picks from the Polish defence. While Glik seems slightly overpriced at €5.5m, Jan Bednarek (€4.5m) is a solid alternative for €1.0m less.
Also, Bereszyński is a fairly secure starter and could offer some attacking threat if playing as the right wing-back. With decent chances for two clean sheets against Slovakia and Sweden, those players could offer good value.
The last pick worth looking at is Moder. The Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder, also a Lech Poznań academy product, is likely to start and occupy a similar role that he had under Graham Potter: a left central midfielder, making late runs into the box, responsible for finding through balls to Lewandowski and Zieliński.
Moder already scored his debut goal against England earlier this year, he is comfortable with both feet and does possess a good long-distance shot, which is important as the EURO 2020 Fantasy game rewards players with an extra point for goals scored from outside of the box.
Poland’s Tuesday’s friendly game against Iceland should give us even more insight on how Sousa will set the team up considering the number of absentees in attack.
One factor that needs to be considered when picking Polish assets is the travel distance. Poland play their first and third match in St. Petersburg, while having to fly to Sevilla to face Spain in Matchday 2. This scenario is far from ideal, as a trip between St. Petersburg to Sevilla and back could take more than 16 hours in total.