Polish View: Euro 2016 Could be Lewy’s Tournament

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Christopher Lash of Rightbankwarsaw gives us the lowdown ahead of the crunch Euro 2016 qualifier in Warsaw.

Can you tell us the mood of the Polish fans after the draw in Scotland? Automatic qualification is no longer a certainty? 

I think the overwhelming emotion is relief.  The game on Thursday meant Polish fans went through the whole gamut from joy, to depression to finally sheer relief that Lewandowski was able to get the equaliser.  In general Polish fans are pretty confident about Sunday but not over-confident.  This team has shown it’s able to get results when not always playing wonderfully well, and of course Lewandowski is in amazing form.  I think most people think Poland will qualify but who knows what will happen.

What was the reaction to Ireland’s win over Germany?

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Most Polish fans were focusing on their own match but obviously they would feel more relaxed now if Ireland hadn’t won.  Still, even without an Irish victory, a Polish draw with Scotland would have meant they’d have needed a point to get through on Sunday night.  As a result, the Irish result didn’t change very much, although obviously it means Ireland will be in a better psychological state after the win.

Polish fans created an incredible atmosphere in Dublin, what can we expect in Warsaw?

I think it should be a good, expectant atmosphere but it could get nervy if Ireland score early.  Polish fans are crazier away from home though, so it won’t be a threatening environment.

Robert Lewandowski is in the form of his life. His relationship with Jakub “Kuba” Błaszczykowski is well known (they are said not to like each other and “Kuba” refused call-ups when Lewandowski was named captain in his place) but is he universally loved in Poland?

If you’d have asked me the question a year and a half ago I would have said no.  Then he was playing excellently for his club side but badly for the national team.  In the last year that image has changed considerably, now he’s captain and is scoring goals for fun.

“(Lewandowski’s) finally doing what everyone expects and I think, if Poland qualify, Euro 2016 could really be his tournament.  He’s 27, so the perfect age to shine at a major tournament and in Arkadiusz Milik he has a partner with whom he really likes to play.”

Who are the other players to look out for?

Well, apart from Milik who scores and assists regularly, the other key players are Grzegorz Krychowiak in midfield, he’s strong in the tackle, economical with the ball and in general is a commanding presence.  Other than that centre-back Kamil Glik is dominant in the air and good positionally.  Jakub Błaszczykowski, although not the threat he once was, is coming back to form with his new club Fiorentina.  The great thing about this Polish side is there is a good spine and the players seem to enjoy training and playing together.  These are definitely promising times for Poland.

Are Polish fans aware of, fearful of any Irish players?

Sorry to be horrible here but not really.  Ireland is considered a side that really fights but that doesn’t have much quality.  Walters is relatively well known, as is Robbie Keane of course.  I think that Shane Long could offer some problems to Poland’s defenders with his pace but in general Scotland were seen as more of a threat to Poland than Ireland.

The Irish fans have fond memories of Euro 2012 in Poland. Is the event still talked about

Oh yes, the stadiums are of course impressive and improvements in infrastructure were important.  It was an exciting time for Poland and I think it has given an impetus to the development of football here.  Poles also remember the Irish well – they were definitely the most loved fans that came over to these shores.

Ron Ulrich of 11Freunde argued that many Germans care more about their club than national team. Does that compare with the Polish domestic scene?

It really does depend. Polish fans love the national team – and this is shown by, in general, very good attendances for national team games, but these are very different fans than at league games.  In the domestic league the dominant fans are the Ultras – who set off flares and like to make political points (often quite aggressively and ostentatiously).  The atmosphere is much calmer at national games – in fact many Ultras and big club supporters make fun of the types who come out to see Poland play.

Christopher Lash lives and works in Warsaw and is the editor of Rightbankwarsaw, a unique take on Polish football from the heart of Europe. Follow on Twitter: @rightbankwarsaw 

Images: Billy Galligan/amanwithhiscamera.com

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