After their 5-0 victory over tiny San Marino, England will be aiming to cement their encouraging position in the race for World Cup qualification against tougher opposition, in the form of Poland, tomorrow night in Warsaw.
They won the hearts of almost every football fan with their fighting performances at Euro 2012, but the Polish have a lot more to them that just spirit. Although not up there with the highest standard of international football, there is a certain amount of quality throughout the team and they’ll be expecting to put up a strong fight not only against England but in the battle for qualification overall.
What players should I be looking out for?
The key man for the Pols is Robert Lewandowski. Playing a crucial role with his goals in the Dortmund dominance of Germany in recent years, the striker is a wanted man with numerous big clubs chasing him. He’s arguably the the only truly world class player in the current squad with Arsenal goal keeper Wojciech Szczesny and inspiration captain, and team mate of Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski both injured. Despite the fact he often fails to show his full ability in the Polish team in his role as a lone front man, coupled with a lack of service, he’ll still be a major concern to England’s back four.
How have they fared in qualification so far?
As expected. A comfortable 2-0 win at home to minnows Moldova and a vital draw 2-2 away at fellow challengers for qualification Macedonia have left Poland level on points with the Macedonians in second. A win over England would not only damage the away side’s qualification hopes, but leave the Pols in a very strong position for at least the runners-up play-off slot in Group H.
Haven’t we got previous with the Pols?
Indeed we do. They shared a group with England in qualification for the 2006 World Cup, with the Three Lions doing the double over them with two 2-1 wins. In fact, Poland have only achieved one win in 17 games, way back in 1973 where an Alan Ball red card contributed to a 2-0 win at Chorzow. The signs are positive for England win, but Poland is now a much tougher place to travel.
What about England? Will there be any changes from the San Marino match?
After leaving out a number of big names on Friday night, manager Roy Hodgson is likely to make changes. Captain Steven Gerrard is back from suspension and is set to win his 99th cap, possibly taking him ahead of Ashley Cole with doubts over his selection remaining. Leighton Baines will fight to keep his place, but Glen Johnson and Joleon Lescott are likely to replace Gary Cahill and Kyle Walker. Also coming in will be James Milner with Theo Walcott injured following his collision with the San Marino goal keeper. Despite the performance of Danny Welbeck, he is also set to miss out and will be replaced by Jermaine Defoe. It’s a selection headache for Hodgson, but a nice one to have.