12 June - Northern Ireland (5pm GMT, Stade de Nice, Nice)
Poland are finally ready to make an impact at the European Championships after achieving qualification with consistency and cutting-edge. Christian FitzHugh underscores the newly raised expectation levels that come with qualifying for a third consecutive Euros.
With 33 goals in 10 qualifying matches, the White Eagles may finally have landed. Having defeated Group C favourites Germany on the road to France already, Adam Nawalka and his men will feel that the sky is the limit to their ambitions. At the very least as part of the newly expanded tournament they will have the realistic expectation to progress from the group stage.
Coach: Adam Nawalka — Taking over in 2013 after World Cup Qualification failure, Nawalka has used his considerable experience of overachievement at domestic level as Coach to shape and give purpose to tournament outsiders who now resemble an impressively offensive unit.
Preferred XI: Fabianski; Piszczek, Pazdan, Glik, Rybus; Krychowiak, Jodlowiec; Grosicki, Blaszczykowski, Peszko; Lewandowski.
Whilst Nawalka often switched between 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations, he is more likely to adopt the slightly more compact 4-2-3-1 formation with standards of opposition elevated at tournament level. Injuries have hampered preparations and some stalwarts from qualification have fallen out favour with club form prioritised to ensure a fresh and hungry start in June. There is, however, considerable pace on offer down the wings and will allow them to break to great effect knowing that their prolific captain and talisman Robert Lewandowski will be lurking not far from goal.
Look out for: Pace, unpredictable dribbling talent and clinical finishing will be used to mask limited domestic game time for several of Poland’s starting XI. As they progress through the tournament they will aim to establish a bond but at the heart of the defence a lack of a natural partner for the rock-solid Kamil Glik could prove Poland’s undoing when seeking to reach the latter stages of the competition.
Did you know?
… Northern Ireland P 9 W 3 D 2 L 4 F 13 A 13
… Germany P 12 W 1 D 3 L 8 F 9 A 22
… Ukraine P 7 W 2 D 2 L 2 F 3 A 8
Nickname: Biało-czerwoni (The white and reds), Białe Orły (The White Eagles)
Calcio fans might remember… Zbigniew Boniek - Juventus (1982-1985) Roma (1985-1988)
Top Division: Ekstraklasa
FIFA World Ranking: 27
International honours: None
Most capped player: Michal Zewlakow (102)
Leading international scorer: Wlodzimierz Lubanski (48)
Poland at the European Championships:
1960 - Did not qualify
1964 - Did not qualify
1968 - Did not qualify
1972 - Did not qualify
1976 - Did not qualify
1980 - Did not qualify
1984 - Did not qualify
1988 - Did not qualify
1992 - Did not qualify
1996 - Did not qualify
2000 - Did not qualify
2004 - Did not qualify
2008 - Group stage
2012 - Group stage
How they got to Euro 2016: In a group with Germany, Republic of Ireland and Scotland, Poland finished runners-up only losing once throughout qualification.