The Polish Football Team, backed by WIŚNIOWSKI, is now participating in the EURO 2016 games. This is the third appearance of the White and Red Team in the European Championships. Let us recap the history of the European Championships and the qualifiers which the Polish team participated in.
Unlike the World Championships which began in 1930, the European Championships have a much shorter history. The plans for pan-European championships were already considered in the 1920s, but the European football activists lacked the drive to turn the ambitious concept into reality.
Only when the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) was established in 1954 did the work on creating the European Championships for European football teams began for real. The father of the EURO concept and the main advocate of its project was Henri Delaunay, a former French football player and the first Secretary General of the UEFA. Although he held that office for only one year, his efforts after his passing were continued by his son, Pierre Delaunay. The work of Pierre Delaunay was crowned in 1960, when the first European Championships were held in France. The 1960 UEFA European Nations’ Cup, or what the current EURO championships were called back in the day, did not feature a Polish representation, which yielded to Spain in the qualifiers. The qualifiers were something completely different from the current event; a team would advance winning a two-legged tie with a rival selected by a draw.
The tournament that was officially called the European Championships was first held in 1968, when the first qualifying rounds were played in a format we know today. Unfortunately, the Polish players did not make it to the main series. This failure would repeat itself every four years, and despite the success in the World Championships or the Olympics, the Polish Football Team simply could not shake off the “Euro curse”. Successive qualifiers would repeatedly result in a fiasco, although the Polish Football Team featured players who normally played in top European leagues!
The Flying Dutchman saves the day
“I’ve chosen to work in Poland because I enjoy big challenges”, Leo Beenhakker explained when asked why he wanted to lead the White and Red Team. This globetrotter of football, a coach with experience acquired on four continents, was contracted in 2006 by PZPN to achieve one goal: advance the Polish Football Team to EURO 2008. The riveting performance on the pitch and the unforgettable matches with Portugal made Poland the winner in its qualifying group and secured its entry to the tournament for the Henri Delaunay Cup for the first time in history.
The advance to the EURO held in Austria and Switzerland was a great success, but the Polish fans were soon hungry for more. Unfortunately, the Polish Football Team failed to advance from its group, giving the field to Croatia, Germany and Austria.
A welcoming host
Four years later, in 2012, Poland automatically qualified for the EURO as the co-host of the Championships with Ukraine. The Polish hopes for the EURO 2012 sky-rocketed. In theory, the group that featured the Polish team was the easiest one to advance from. In the three games with Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic, the players led by Franciszek Smuda managed to score only two points only and, to the utter despair of Polish fans, fell out of the games with the lowest rank. Although Poland was a splendid host of the Championships, its performance on the pitch was far from satisfactory.
Vive la Pologne!
Following the games held jointly by Poland and Ukraine, the UEFA selected France as the host of the next European Championships. Hence the games made a full circle and returned to their country of origin, albeit with their formula reinvented completely. For the first time in history there will be 24 teams playing in the main phase, instead of the traditional 16.
In the qualifiers, Adam Nawałka’s team clashed with the most inconvenient team of all participants, Germany. The Polish team had never managed to win with its western neighbour. This all changed on the 11th of October 2014. At the National Stadium, rooted for by 50 thousand fans, the Polish players won 2:0 with the German Football Team for the first time ever. The victory reinvigorated the Polish team, and ultimately, the National Team qualified second to Germany, with direct advance to the EURO 2016 in France.
The strength lies with the team
Polish fans hope that the Polish Football Team will claim success, and with a good reason. The current line-up is critical. Starting with the goalkeeper, Adam Nawałka has collected world-class professionals who play in the best leagues in Europe. The Team captain and leader is Robert Lewandowski, but success would not be possible without Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kamil Glik, Arkadiusz Milik, Łukasz Fabiański, and many other stars on the Polish football firmament. Football is not a sport for individuals. It is all about team play, it is where the collective matters most. This is also the main strength of the Polish Football Team; Nawałka managed to build a line-up without any personal conflicts between the players, and this is crucial when the team is striving for the greatest prize.
The championships in progress
Zmagania w EURO 2016 Polacy szczęśliwie rozpoczęli 12 czerwca, gdy w Nicei zmierzyli się z Irlandią Północną, wygrywając starcie 1:0. Cztery dni później na monumentalnym Stade de France w Paryżu Polska zagrała z Niemcami. Ostatni grupowy sprawdzian to spotkanie z Ukrainą 21 czerwca.
The matches of EURO 2016 began on the 12th of June, and fortunately so: the Polish Football Team had its first game with Northern Ireland in Nice and won 1:0. Four days later, at the monumental Stade de France in Paris, the Poles clashed with the Germans. The last great test in the group will be a match with Ukraine, scheduled for the 21st of June. The Polish Football Team will participate in the EURO games for the third time in its history. The first two games were subpar. The fans across Poland have therefore been repeating the saying “third time does the trick” like a mantra to help the team advance from the group, or even achieve something far greater than that. The fans would not mind at all if the old saying proved true and the Polish Football Team, along with WIŚNIOWSKI as the sponsor, went as far in the games as possible.
Author: Maciej Machaj