Poland World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections
Pictured: Robert Lewandowski.
- Robert Lewandowski leads Poland into the World Cup.
- Read on for their roster, schedule and projections.
- Nicholas Hennion breaks it all down below.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating.
Read on for a full breakdown of Poland ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.
Poland World Cup Preview
Poland can be described perfectly as an average soccer country — they’re not great, but they’re also not terrible.
The headline of the roster is Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowki, who is Poland’s leader in total international goals with 76, scoring almost 0.6 per game in his time with the international team. Elsewhere, there are definitely some familiar names that the average soccer fan will recognize, including goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, defender Jan Bednarek and midfielder Piotr Zielinski.
As for some of the underlying metrics, those statistics reassert the fact that Poland are simply mediocre. At the European Championships, Poland registered 3.3 xGs in three matches while allowing 3.5 xG on the defensive end. In that tournament, Poland failed to make it out of the group.
|Chances To…||Action Projections||bet365 Odds|
|Win Group Stage||17.39%||+450|
|Advance To Knockout Round||47.50%||-110|
|Win World Cup||0.40%||+15000|
|Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.|
Entering the World Cup, this team is having a bit of a crisis on the defensive side of the ball. In arguably one of the strongest UEFA Nations League groups – Poland’s fellow competitors are the Netherlands, Belgium and Wales — they’ve conceded 1.7 xGs per 90 minutes while posting a -0.79 xG differential per 90 minutes.
In fact, in those six Nations League fixtures, Poland won the match on xG only one time. That match, a home fixture against Wales, represented the only time in the Nations League fixtures they both created more than 1 xG and conceded under 1 xG.
The other worrying element? Lewandowski isn’t getting any younger and has seen his production drop off a cliff recently. In the five Nations League fixtures in which he participated, Lewandowski accumulated only 0.53 total xG along with 1.17 xGOT.
It’s not entirely bad news with Lewandowski, as he has generated 1 xG per 90 minutes in his first 11 fixtures with Barcelona and created 0.55 xG/90 minutes in three matches against Slovakia, Spain and Sweden at the European Championships.
But, if Poland hopes to make it out of the group stage for the first time since the 1986 FIFA World Cup, they will have to clean up their defense in a hurry. In their last 15 competitive matches against teams that either will feature in the 2022 World Cup or partook in the European Championships, Poland have kept a clean sheet in exactly two.
Plus, in just one European Championship fixture against a 2022 World Cup side (Spain), manager Czesław Michniewicz’s side surrendered 2.2 xG. Additionally, the 2018 World Cup saw Poland finish dead-last in a group while surrendering at least 1 xG to all of Senegal, Columbia and Japan.
Key Player: Piotr Zielinski
Most would point to Lewandowski as the focal point of this roster, which is ultimately fair.
But if Poland are to make it out of the group in Qatar, there’s an argument to be made Zielinski could help unlock the Polish attack. Through his first 11 fixtures with Napoli, Zielinski has created 0.38 xAssists per 90 minutes along with 0.56 xGs + xAssists. In the four prior seasons, the attacking midfielder never created more than 0.2 xA per 90 minutes and created more than 0.35 xG + xA in half of those four seasons.
Can part of that be attributed to a small sample and Napoli’s style of play? Unquestionably. However, the fact remains Poland have never had much offensive support for Lewandowski. At the European Championships, Lewandowski accounted for 52% of Poland’s total xG output. At the 2018 FIFA World Cup, he accounted for 42.3% of their total xG output. In fact, Lewandowski was the only player who created more than one total xG at both those competitions.
Should Zielinski bring his Napoli form to Qatar, that should help provide some extra attacking muscle in a group that should feature a lot of goal-scoring.
Put simply, Poland are a team that prefer to play without the ball and try to beat teams on the counterattack.
Michniewicz’s preferred formation is a 4-2-3-1, but we’ve also seen a 3-4-2-1 with three central-defenders. The latter formation ultimately becomes a back-five in defense, but the key cogs of the formation are the two central midfielders.
Unlike some teams that opt for one attacking central midfielder and one defensive central midfielder — think Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté with France – Poland place two defensive-minded midfielders in those roles to provide protection for a leaky defense.
Then, once Poland win the ball, they will attempt to counter through the center of the park. This is where Zielinski features prominently once again, as he’ll control most of the ball with Lewandowski in front in the No. 9 role, with two wingers providing options out wide.
As a result of that strategy, bettors won’t see a high volume of shots from Poland. Rather, this attack will instead focus on quality over quantity and wait for a prime scoring chance to arrive.
All of this is evidenced by the fact that Poland had a majority of the ball in only one of their six Nations League fixtures and saw only 34.75% average possession in four fixtures against Belgium and the Netherlands, despite playing from behind.
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Poland World Cup Schedule
|Mexico||11 a.m. ET, Nov. 22|
|Saudi Arabia||8 a.m. ET, Nov. 26|
|Argentina||2 p.m. ET, Nov. 30|
Most Recent World Cup Result
Fourth Place, Group Stage (2018)
It was a tough run for Poland at the 2018 World Cup, as they won just one game in the group stage, against Japan. That 1-0 result only secured a moral victory as they came last in the group.