Why Poland are the Euro 2016 dark horses

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Having beaten Northern Ireland 1-0 in their opening match to claim their first win in seven European attempts, Sam May takes a look at why Poland is the team to keep an eye on this tournament. Who shone in the victory and how far can they actually go?

They were top goal scorers in qualifying, thanks to red-hot striker Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich frontman netted 13 times, helping his side to qualification and equaled Northern Ireland striker David Healey’s qualifying scoring record set before Euro 2008.

Finishing second behind Germany in Group D qualifying, they managed 33 goals. Beating Joachim Low’s side 2-0 in qualifying, they will hold no fear, when they both meet, second time around at the Stade De France on June 16.

Robert Lewandowski is obviously the one to watch out for. The 27-year old scored 42 goals in 51 appearances for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, as well as 34 goals in 72 for his country. So the captain is in great form.

22-year old, Arkadiusz Milik of Ajax, who got the only goal of today’s game, eased the reliance on Lewandowski. He managed six goals in qualifying and now has his first in Euro 2016. Having bagged 24 goals for club level last season, he too is in form and has been linked with a move to Premier League champions Leicester City.

Wingback Lukasz Piszczek was solid, but his Borussia Dortmund teammate Jakub Blaszczykowski stood out, delivering crosses for the two front men and was a constant threat down the flank.

Sevilla’s Grzegorz Krychowiak, fresh from winning another Europa League title, was instrumental in the middle, helping to break up play. Manchester United and Barcelona are among the teams fighting it out for his signature.

We are sure to see 19-year-old midfielder Bartosz Kapustka, who plays for Cracovia at some point as he impressed Coach Adam Nawalka, with his all-action performances in qualifying. Both Piotr Zielinski, who is close to a move to Liverpool , and 21-year old Karol Linetty of Lech Poznan, who has been targeted by Tottenham and Manchester City, didn’t feature, but will surely get their chance to showcase what they can do further in the competition.

In terms of performance, given Poland’s possession based style and attacking flare, they should progress beyond the group stages.

Having beaten as stated Germany in the qualification stages, they will have the chance a second time, They are already top of the group after today’s win and are expected to beat Ukraine. If they finish second in Group C, they could draw either Romania or Switzerland in the round of 16. It could be Spain in the last eight though, which would pose a tough test.

That should be the minimum expectation for a country that is on the up and with talent attracting many major suitors.

Last eight would be a success for a team who generally struggles in tournaments, but if they get there, none of the real favourites will want face them, so who knows? They may even make the semi-finals.

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