2008 Poland Euro Soccer Preview
by Doc's Sports - 05/05/2008
Two football nations make their European Championship debut this summer, and both will face-off in Group B. Besides co-hosts Austria, Bialo-czerwoni look to make amends for the team's disappointing performance in the 2006 World Cup. And a showing this summer can go a long way, as Poland with co-host Euro 2012 with Ukraine.
A couple of third place finishes in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups, but not much else sticks out for this nation in the sport's largest tournaments. That being said, you might not know that this team won group A in the qualifying process. They beat out Serbia, Finland and Belgium and forced world power Portugal to runners-up in the table. And a great deal of this team's success can be attributed to coach Leo Beenhakker. The experienced Dutch headman is considered one of the game's best minds. He has managed at both the club and country level since the mid 1970s and achieved Euro qualification for Poland, something no one has ever done with this football nation.
Golden Player Watch - Euzebiusz Smolarek, F
As if advancing to the country's first ever European Championship weren't enough, Poland made major headlines by winning group A outright. A large part of the team's offense was from this talented striker. His nine goals during the campaign not only led his team, but Smolarek finished third in the entire qualifying process, behind 10 from Croatia's Eduardo da Silva and 13 from Northern Ireland's David Healy.
Playing his domestic ball in Spain's top-flight league for Racing Santander, Poland's top offensive weapon saw a memorable moment during qualifying in 2006 with a double against Portugal. His first strike on nine minutes was the first by a Pole in 20 years against the Portuguese. The last was by his father, another Polish international, Wlodzimierz Smolarek.
Reason Why They Will Advance to Elimination Round
Conventional wisdom suggests one of these spots is reserved for Germany. That's a bit presumptuous, however Poland, Croatia and Austria will all enter group play with that mindset: one spot left for three teams.
And hey, Poland is here for the first time, so why not make some noise and earn a spot in the final eight? Austria is likely considered the weakest of the 16 nations competing, while up-and-coming Croatia team is relatively new to the large stage and still needs to prove a lot to justify their top 15 FIFA ranking. I'd rank Poland third in this group solely based on talent, but a lot more will be working for the Poles during Euro 2008. The hype alone built up by supporting fans might be enough to propel their squad through to the elimination phase.
Group Play Schedule
Poland vs. Germany - June 8
Germany vs. Austria - June 12
Germany vs. Croatia - June 16