Outright Odds: 125/1
Group A Winners: 4/1
Following a disastrous 2002 World Cup campaign in which coach Jerzy Engel talked up his side’s prospects only for them to be beaten 2-0 by South Korea and hammered 4-0 by Portugal, Poland will be keen to recreate their former World Cup glories.
Under coach Pawel Janas, Poland made short work of their qualifying group, enjoying home and away victories against Austria, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Wales. Two narrow 2-1 defeats to England prevented a clean sweep but eight wins out of 10 matches was more than enough to cement their place in the finals.
In qualifying they proved their ability to beat average teams convincingly and they will need to repeat this on the grand stage if they are to repeat their glorious campaigns of 1974 and 1982 in which they finished third. However, they also need to prove they have what it takes to beat the stronger sides as they did in 1974, when Argentina, Italy, Sweden and Yugoslavia were dispatched before beating Brazil to claim third place.
They certainly have the firepower to do so and Poland’s main strength lies in attack. During qualifying they cracked in 27 goals, notably the 8-0 thrashing of Azerbaijan and scored at least once in all 10 of their qualifying matches. More importantly, they scored 10 more than group winners England managed for all their multi-million pound’s worth of strikers and only three sides scored more goals than the Poles during the European qualifying campaign.
Elche striker Tomasz Frankowski, nicknamed “The Goals Hunter” and Celtic forward Maciej Zurawski fired in 14 goals between them during qualifying while Southampton’s Grzegorz Rasiak is also in contention.
Poland are also a side that is not short of experience. The expected starting line-up has an average age of over 30 while Jacek Krzynowek, Jamil Kosowski and Radolsaw Kaluzny have all played in the German Bundesliga. Four years ago the team struggled to cope with the climate in Korea and Japan but will have no such issues this time when making the short trip over the border into Germany.
Their only real weakness is at the back where they have developed a habit of conceding soft goals which will not go unpunished when they face a team in clinical mood.
Poland have received a favourable draw in which they should arguably beat both Ecuador and Costa Rica with the local “derby” fixture against Germany sandwiched in between. The dismal failure of four years ago means the Poles cannot be backed confidently to win Group A, although they are strong enough to qualify from it.
Poland to qualify from Group A @ 8/15
Poland to beat Costa Rica @ 4/5