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Poland v Scotland: Poles are more than a sum of their parts

Tags: nfl
Poland v Scotland: Poles are more than a sum of their parts
poland-v-scotland-poles-are-more-than-a-sum-of-their-parts
Deep inside Warsaw's stunning Naradowy Stadion in March, the Poland national team were holding their scheduled pre-match media conference. Coach Adam Nawlaka was flanked by Borussia New York Knicks Jersey Dortmund's Lukasz Piszczek and Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich, who were modelling the new Polish kit that would be worn for the first time in the friendly against the Scots. Yet Lewandowski would have to wait before sporting it on the pitch because of a knee injury. Later that evening in the same auditorium, I asked Gordon Strachan if there was a part of him disappointed that his Scotland defence would be deprived of the opportunity to test themselves against one of the best strikers in world football in a friendly environment. Might it not have been ideal preparation for the European Championship qualifier that would follow seven months later? Strachan's answer was definitive: "No, I want to win the game." Win they did, Scott Brown scoring the only goal in an impressive 1-0 victory that came amid an unbeaten 12 months before September's defeat in Germany. Yet on Tuesday night, Poland will have Lewandowski in their side. The Bundesliga striker did not score in the 2-0 triumph over the Germans on Saturday, but his prowess was there for all to see when he expertly brushed aside his former Dortmund team-mate Erik Durm before teeing up Sebastian Mila for the Poles' second goal in Warsaw. A tally 103 goals in 187 appearances for Dortmund, including a sensational four-goal haul in the 2013 Champions League semi-final win over Real Madrid, eventually led to his switch to Munich on a free transfer in June. It has been a slow start to life with the German champions for the 26-year-old, though he signed off for the international break by doubling his club season's tally with a brace against Hannover. Yet focusing solely on the Polish captain would be foolish, given how talented a squad Nawlaka has at his disposal. While Lewandowski's star sparkles, Arkadiusz Milik's is rising. Fast. A prolific scorer for the Polish youth teams, the 20-year-old earned Gornik Zabrze a record €3m fee when he left his homeland for Germany in 2012 before joining Ajax on loan in the summer. He began October by scoring six goals in a 9-0 Stephen Curry Jersey Dutch Cup win, then followed that feat by opening the scoring against Germany with a deft header, to spark early comparisons to legendary Polish forward Wlodzimierz Lubanski and Lewandowski himself. Six of the starting XI that faced the Germans, began the game against Scotland in March. Milik, Piszczek, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, the imposing centre-half Kamil Glik of Torino, beside him Steaua Bucharest's Lukasz Szukala and midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak - who has just moved to Sevilla - were all selected for both games. Glik was particularly impressive as he helped stem the almost constant German tide, while Kamil Grosicki was one of the few Polish attacking threats in the first half. The Rennes winger scored twice in the 7-0 hammering of Gibraltar and compliments Piszczek on the right in the continued absence of Dortmund's Jakub Blaszczykowski, who missed the friendly with Scotland in March with a cruciate knee injury and is currently nursing a muscle tear. Along with Lewandowski, Blaszczykowski was one of just two players to score as co-hosts Poland finished bottom of their group at Euro 2012. In the aftermath of that disappointment, the appointment of Nawalka was far from universally popular. Some wanted to see Slovakian Vladimir Weiss or former Czech boss Michal Bilek charged with taking on the job. But, after a first victory over Germany and a perfect start to the campaign, most dissenting voices have been muted. The coach is expected to name a similar XI to face the Scots, albeit Poland will expect to have a lot more than the 33% of possession they enjoyed on Saturday. But as a content Nawalka said himself after the win: "Sometimes, possession is overrated." Another factor in Tuesday's tussle might be Marc Gasol Blue Jersey that three members of the Polish squad have bittersweet memories of a very recent meeting with Scottish opposition. Midfielder Tomasz Jodlowiec - who will not start due to an injury - Michal Zyro and Michal Kucharczyk all featured in Legia Warsaw's hammering of Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers. The latter two both scored, with Zyro also involved in the incident that led to Celtic being awarded a 3-0 second-leg win when he was replaced by ineligible defender Bartosz Bereszynski during the closing stages at Murrayfield. Poland have only emerged from a European Championship qualification group once before - in 2008. But, with Lewandowski in his pomp, they are confident they will be returning to the top table.

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