What are the expectations for the team?
At the peak of a huge match-fixing and corruption scandal, the national team are seen as the last bastion of honour for Polish football. High hopes were dashed after a recent friendly 30 drubbing at home to the United States and nobody is building their hopes up after the last two disastrous World Cups. Especially considering that we are in a strong group. People may be hoping for floodlight failure as happened during the qualifying game against Kazakhstan – our boys scored three goals straight after the lights came back on. Those at the Polish FA who are currently undergoing a match-fixing investigation categorically have done nothing wrong.

Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?

Artur Boruc used to advertise McDonald’s and he looks increasingly like he believed what he said in those ads. Coach Leo Beenhakker appears in a Tyskie beer ad where he says: “You’ve got talented people in Poland like in every other country.” It was met with disbelief and analysed more than a zillion times. What if it’s actually true? There must be something in what a man who earns €50,000 a month says.
 
Is the coach popular?
Beenhakker is far more popular than all the players put together. His name is constantly sung during games. He is revered as a sorcerer who has found a way to inspire the often very average players from a weak Polish league. Not only have results improved, but the national team developed their own style for the first time since the 1980s. There are malicious rumours that it’s all down to his interpreter, the former Celtic favourite Jacki Dziekanowski, who apparently says the complete opposite to what Leo means.

Which players are good interviewees and who are the worst?

The Holland-born Ebi Smolarek, when in a mood to speak Polish in an understandable way, has often got something interesting to say. Boruc is a straight talker – after making some amazing saves against Germany during last World Cup he didn’t want any praise at all. All he had to say for himself was that he was just lucky to be hit by the ball. At the other end of the spectrum you will find Ireneusz Jele of Auxerre, who is an interview disaster, his gems including: “We lost because the opponents were more fasterer.”

Are then any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Jacek Bak is an enthusiastic skier. Boruc says he wants to travel to away games with Legia Warsaw fans after retiring. Young forward Kamil Grosicki has been treated for gambling addiction.

Will there be any rehearsed goal celebrations?

Does picking the ball out of your own net to restart a game as quickly as possible count?

Are there any players involved in politics?

A good result against the Germans would make Leo a serious candidate for president.

What will the media coverage be like?

Famous former goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski will certainly have lots to say, but it will be inversely proportional to any sense conveyed. Former national coach Jacek Gmoch will be a close runner-up. His numerous slip-ups and fiendish laughter have earned him cult status, as has his legendary inability to understand the away-goals rule.

Will there be many fans travelling to the tournament?
We were one of the better supported teams during the Euro qualifiers with many exiles travelling from the UK and Ireland. But in a typical piece of cronyism the PZPN (the FA) distributed almost all the finals tickets among the so-called “Polish football family”, leaving only about 2,000 tickets per game for genuine supporters.

Maciej Slominski

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