Polish foreign legion takes aim at Greece
If Poland can upset former champions Greece in the opening game of Euro 2012 on Friday it will be a victory made in Germany.sports Updated: Jun 07, 2012 09:38 IST
If Poland can upset former champions Greece in the opening game of Euro 2012 on Friday it will be a victory made in Germany.
Two of the hosts' likely starting lineup were born or brought up in Germany and German-speaking coach Franciszek Smuda has built his side around a trio from the Borussia Dortmund team that dominated last season's Bundesliga campaign.
The reliance on foreign-based talent has prompted some unrest in Poland shown by a row this week over French-born midfielder Ludovic Obraniak's inability to speak Polish and relations with the rest of the squad.
Centre half Damien Perquis, who also hails from france, jumped to Obraniak's defence at a news conference this week.
All will be forgiven if the hosts, the lowest ranked team at this year's finals, can beat a Greece side who were shock winners of Euro 2004 and have lost once in the past 20 games.
"You can see that from the start Smuda set out to build this team on the basis of players from Germany," said leading Polish football columnist Michal Pol.
"That may mean that they are better prepared for this tournament than in the past," he added, pointing to errors in conditioning made in an ill-fated campaign four years ago and at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Group A is seen as a pretty open contest, with Russia the favourites after a 3-0 win over Italy last month, and their much-praised drive to the semi-finals four years ago.
That leaves the Poles, Greeks and Czech Republic battling it out for the other spot in the quarter-finals.
The Poles' hopes hang largely on striker Robert Lewandowski, third top scorer in the German top flight last season with 22 goals, as well as a hat-trick in Dortmund's 5-2 rout of Bayern Munich in the German Cup final.
Service for him comes from Dortmund colleagues Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski as well as emerging talents like winger Maciej Rybus and Obraniak - a French international at youth level before taking Polish citizenship last year.
They will face a Greece side that gave away just five goals in qualifying, led by the central defensive partnership of Avraam Papadopoulos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
They have already opened one tournament with a bang, having stunned hosts Portugal in 2004, and will take strength from a qualifying campaign in which they saw off Croatia and Israel.
They have creative talent in right-sided midfielder Sotiris Ninis, who has recovered from a serious knee injury suffered against Israel in a qualifier last September. His attributes include an impressive change of pace and powerful shot.
"What we know about the Greeks is they are a collective. They defend as a unit and have proven they are very good at taking their chances," Polish chief scout and assistant coach Hubert Malowiejski told a news conference this week.
"They are a very difficult prospect."