Slaski Stadium

Referee: Gianluca Rocchi | Attendance: 43000

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  • Kamil Glik 70'

1 - 1



  • Wayne Rooney 31'

Hodgson out to ease Polish pressure

John Brewin
Przemyslaw Tyton saves Giorgos Karagounis' penalty at the Euros© Getty Images

England never made it to Warsaw at Euro 2012. Andrea Pirlo's velvet touch, and the usual failure at spot-kicks meant that a trip to Poland's capital for the semi-finals did not happen. Despite staying in Krakow for the duration of their tournament, it was the earliest the draw allowed England to actually play in Poland. At least England got further than the co-hosts, whose tournament never got better than a thrilling first thirty minutes in their opener with Greece, where a bear-pit atmosphere in the Stadion Narodowy was on their side but a disappointing draw was the final result.

Thereafter, the Poles showed spirit but were simply not good enough to qualify from what was the tournament's weakest group. It was downhill from Robert Lewandowski's goal in that opener, even allowing for Jakub 'Kuba' Blaszczykowski's wonder strike against Russia, which came at a time of increasing desperation. Defeat to the Czechs in Wroclaw came when all was just about lost, anyway. That exit, which did not dampen the fervour of Polish fans for the rest of the tournament - they were always the loudest at any game, even when their team was not playing - eventually led to the departure of coach Francizek Smuda.

His replacement is Waldemar Fornalik, and his task is to keep that fan fervour high in Warsaw for long enough for his team to start to believe they can beat England. Fornalik has not been dealt a good hand in the absence of "Kuba", who hurt his ankle playing for Borussia Dortmund against Hannover earlier this month. A shuffling of the pack is required; especially after a start to qualifying for Brazil 2014 that has yielded four points from games against Montenegro and Moldova.

Two young midfielders in Pawel Wszocek and Stade De Reims midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak impressed last Friday during the friendly defeat of South Africa, and it is widely expected that Fornalik will include them from the start. With Roy Hodgson's team expected to adopt a conservative approach, a draw might even be the target for England's coach and Poland may well have chances to attack.

Indeed this is the first big test of the Hodgson regime if we consider that the Euros were a qualified success; winning in Moldova was good, drawing with Ukraine at Wembley was not good enough. In the aftermath of Friday's non-event against San Marino, and a performance that was little more than functional against a team not good enough for the Football League, let alone international football, Hodgson was most happy about Ukraine's draw in Moldova. It did not suggest a manager expecting to blow the other group contenders away.

A win in Poland, in a stadium that is among the continent's best while retaining an atmosphere as good any too, would be a significant step for England, and is eminently possible too. Poland look there for the taking, and an away win here would ease the pressure on getting a similar result in Montenegro and Ukraine. Will Hodgson seize that chance?

Poland player to watch - Przemyslaw Tyton

"When it comes to the goalkeeper," say Polish journalist Piotr Stoklosinski of the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper and website. "Probably Przemyslaw Tyton will take the role. Tyton is (Wojciech) Szczesny's replacement since Szczesny's red card against Greece at Euro 2012. He is doing more than well and he actually brought hope back to Polish national team supporters." Tyton, of course, saved Poland's blushes in the Euro opener when saving the penalty that Szczesny had given away and been sent off for. He has a chance to make the No. 1 spot his own.

England player to watch - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

He scored his first goal and completed his first 90 minutes for his country, but still there are doubts about young Oxlade-Chamberlain. The aforementioned came against San Marino, though must be seen as step forward. Theo Walcott's injured ribs may mean his Arsenal team-mate is granted another start for his country but there are still doubts about his ability to stay tactically aware, and impose himself for lengthy periods. We are also unsure about what his best position is - from the left, from the right, or from the centre? Hodgson, rigid in his thinking, may consider that he lacks the discipline to start in Warsaw.

Key Battle: Robert Lewandowski v Phil Jagielka

In the words of Stoklosinski: "As both Szczesny and Blaszczykowski are injured, the only man, who in the opinion of football fans can save us is Robert Lewandowski. A few days ago, "Lewy" couldn't beat Joe Hart in the Champions League [for Dortmund against Man City], but everyone expects him to score in the upcoming match. It would be his first goal after Euro 2012." Lewandowski, linked with a Premier League move, will come up against Jagielka, playing in the country of his grandfather's birth. The Everton man has rarely let England down, though was sluggish when Ukraine scored at Wembley. One of the Bundesliga's best is sure to test him. Whenever Lewandowski has the ball, the home crowd will be on their feet.

Trivia: No mention of Poland playing England at football is complete without recalling that it was the Poles who were the first team to prevent England from qualifying for the World Cup finals. Having won 2-0 in June 1973 in Chorzow, England could only draw 1-1 at Wembley that October. An Allan Clarke penalty cancelled out a Jan Domarski goal, but from there on in, Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski - labelled a 'clown' in pre-match by TV pundit Brian Clough - held England at bay. Poland went on to finish 3rd at the 1974 World Cup.

Stats: England have only lost once to Poland in 17 matches - that aforementioned 1973 defeat. They last won in Poland in May 1997, a 2-0 win via goals from Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham.

Odds: A home win is 4.00 at bet365, and an away win is 1.90. A draw is 3.40. Lewandowski to score first and Poland win 1-0 is 26.00.

Prediction: "It's a 'must-win-game' for us," says Stoklosinski. "And the atmosphere at the stadium, as at Euro 2012, should be absolutely great." So, with Poland needing to win, and Roy in charge, let's call it a draw.

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