Nine things you didn’t know about Poland – and one thing you did

England will close out their international break with a clash against familiar foes, Poland. With that in mind, Planet Sport brings you a few facts you may not have known about the Poles.

The Three Lions will be looking to make further progress in their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign when they travel to Warsaw on Wednesday.

Poland currently represent the biggest challenge to Gareth Southgate's qualifying hopes.

As we build up to the big game between Group I's heavyweights, here's a look at nine things you didn't know about Poland - and one thing you certainly do.

1 - Paulo Sousa's Champions League record

Back in January, the Polish FA made a decision to sack Jerzy Brzeczek from his role as manager and replace him with Paulo Sousa.

The JuventusBorussia Dortmund and Inter Milan defensive midfielder enjoyed a highly successful career as a player - something that cannot be said about his managerial run… at least for now.

The former Portugal international has taken charge of ten games as manager of Poland but only won three times. Their scalps have not been that impressive, either, with Andorra, Albania and San Marino the beaten teams - San Marino even managed to score.

Poland manager, Paulo Sousa

Sousa also faced a wrath of criticism following a disappointing European Championship campaign which saw the Poles finish bottom of their group with one point to their name.

The 50-year-old doesn't seem too fazed by the criticism, however.

After all, he's no stranger to high pressure situations. In fact, one thing you might not know about Sousa is that he is one of only four players to win back-to-back Champions League titles with two different clubs.

Paulo Sousa lifting the Champions League trophy as a Borussia Dortmund player

His first European Cup victory came in 1996 as a Juventus player. The second came with Borussia Dortmund just 12 months later - beating Juventus, of all teams, in the final.

The three other players in that select group are Marcel Desailly, Gerard Pique and Samuel Eto'o.

2 - The clown with a World Cup record

Jan Tomaszewski. If you've never heard of that name, ask your dad. If he's too young to remember, ask your grandad.

One of these relatives will have the name Tomaszewski engraved into the back of their minds.

The man described by Brian Clough as a 'clown' went on to single-handedly deny England a place in the 1974 World Cup. His goalkeeping heroics at Wembley helped Poland to a 1-1 draw which proved crucial in their qualification bid.

Jan Tomaszewski, Poland's goalkeeper and her of last night's match with England, shows his hands outside the Kensington Hotel, where his team were just leaving for the airport.

That game put the goalkeeper into the history books but would go on to overshadow all of his other major achievements.

For example, one thing you may not know about Tomaszewski is that at the 1974 World Cup, he became the first goalkeeper in history to save two penalties at a single tournament.

Sweden's Jana Tappera was his first victim as Poland went on to win 1-0 in the second round. Bayern Munich legend Uli Hoeness was the other penalty casualty as Poland and West Germany clashed for a place in the final.

1974 World Cup, Jan Tomaszewski is about to save a penalty from Uli Hoenes during Poland's game with West Germany in the 1974 World Cup

Despite the miss, a goal from Gerd Muller later in the game helped the Germans to a home final and eventually the World Cup trophy.

Nevertheless, Tomaszewski's achievement of being the first keeper to save two penalties in a single World Cup tournament is something that will never be taken away from him.

3 - Excitement about next generation

Since the 1980s, Poland have struggled to be competitive on the international stage.

The national side have only qualified for three World Cups since 1986, failing to progress past the group stage on every occasion. 

Their record isn't much better when it comes to the Euros. Poland have only ever competed in four European Championships, making it past the group stage once, in 2016.

Krystian Bielik of Derby County shields the ball from Jake Bidwell of Swansea during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Swansea City at the Pride Park

However, that could be about to change.

The young crop of players breaking through across some of the continent's toughest leagues have stirred a lot of excitement back in Poland.

The likes of Mateusz Gorski (Ajax), Kamil Grabara (FC Copenhagen), Marcin Bulka (Paris Saint-Germain), Krystian Bielik (Derby County), Sebastian Szymanski (Dynamo Moscow), Fabian Mrozek and Mateusz Musialowski (both Liverpool) are expected to take the national side to the next level.

4 - Inspiration for Iceland's Viking clap

One of the most impressive scenes at Euro 2016 was Iceland's Viking chant which gained worldwide attention - especially after their 2-1 win over England.

But before you start talking about Viking DNA and spreading those 'it's in their blood' theories, we should mention that the chant was actually inspired by Polish handball supporters.

The head of the Association of Icelandic Football Fans revealed in an interview that the group was looking to create a distinct chant upon their formation in 2007.

Iceland fans during the 2016 European Championships

After seeing a video of Polish handball fans doing a variation of the chant, the Iceland supporters took the ball and ran with it.

In 2016 the head of the association, Styrmir Gislason told Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten: "The Poles came up with this form of chant, and we took it on and adapted it to our historical traditions. Today, after the games in France, the sound of our chant gives us goosebumps and makes us feel like fearless Vikings."

5 - Poles and Brits play soccer match in Baghdad

Arguably the most famous wartime soccer match took place during the Christmas truce in World War I. British and German soldiers famously put aside their weapons and played a match which according to reports was won by the four-time World Cup winners.

One wartime match which rarely gets a mention took place in 1943 - the midst of World War II.

Polish and British soldiers situated in Baghdad decided to organise the fixture on January 24.

Unlike the Christmas truce match, the preparations this time round were a lot more serious. In fact, Poland even hosted a pre-match training camp of 40 players as they looked to pick their strongest XI.

A crowd of 8,000 fans - which included Generals Wladyslaw Anders and Henry Maitland Wilson - packed into the Scouts Ground and watched on as Poland romped to a 4-0 victory.

This was the country's first international game following the Nazi occupation in 1939 and memorabilia from that infamous encounter has been put on display at the Gdansk Second World War Museum.

6 - The traitor who made World Cup history

When talking about legends of soccer, Ernst Wilimowski is not a name that immediately springs to mind.

That is a sad truth considering the forward endured one of most sensational and controversial careers of all time.

From scoring 107 goals in one season and becoming a national hero, to surviving a Nazi occupation and becoming a national traitor, few can say they lived their life like Wilimowski.

It would take a whole series of articles to fully put his career into perspective but on this occasion, we're going to focus on arguably his greatest feat.

Poland's first World Cup appearance took place in 1938 and such is luck, they drew one of the strongest teams on the planet, Brazil.

Despite the challenge standing in front of them, Poland put on an incredible display and took the Brazilians all the way to extra-time.

Ultimately, Brazil prevailed 6-5 but the true star of the show was Wilimowski who became the first ever player to score four goals in a single World Cup game.

7 - Twelve unsuccessful Euro qualifying campaigns

We spoke a lot about some of Poland's greatest successes, records and achievements but now it's time to face some reality.

The team's competitive record leaves a lot to be desired but the European Championship record is especially tragic.

The Poland team during the World Cup European Qualifying match at the Slaski Stadium

One thing you may not know about the national team is that they failed to qualify for 12 successive tournaments since its inception in 1960.

In recent times, that record has improved with Poland taking part in the last four editions of the Euros - qualifying for one of them automatically as hosts.

8 - Rare Champions League appearances

If you thought Poland's international qualification record was bad, just wait until you hear about the torrid situation in the world of club soccer.

The country has historically struggled to make an impact in UEFA competitions - most notably in the Champions League.

Since the competition reformed in 1992, only two Polish clubs have ever qualified.

Legia Warszawa fans during a Champions League match with Borussia Dortmund

The first was Legia Warsaw who reached the quarter-finals during the 1995/96 campaign. A year later, it was the turn of Widzew Lodz who failed to progress past the group stage.

Legia returned to the competition during the 2016/17 season. However, their only noteworthy contribution was a record breaking 8-4 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

9 - Only one win over England

Putting aside Poland's win over the British army during the World War II, their only other win over England came in 1973.

Robert Gadocha and Wlodzimierz Lubanski scored the only goals of the game as Poland celebrated the historic win in front of 73,000 fans in Chorzow.


This was one of the early games in the 1974 World Cup qualifiers but the more significant result came later in the campaign. The aforementioned 1-1 draw at Wembley - courtesy of Jan Tomaszewski's heroic performance in goal - sealed Poland's place at the tournament at the expense of England.

Many in Poland consider the result a victory, often referring to "the time they beat England 1-1".

The good news for England fans is that this fixture has been pretty much plain sailing ever since. The Three Lions have won 11 of the last 17 head-to-head meetings.

Now that we had a look at nine things you perhaps didn't know about the Poles, it's time to talk about the one thing we do.

10 - England's biggest threat in World Cup qualifiers

One thing we know for sure is that Poland represent the biggest threat to England's World Cup qualifying hopes.

Yes, they may be a few points behind in the group. However, a win over the Three Lions will change the entire outlook.

Poland's Jan Bednarek (left) and England's Harry Kane battle for the ball during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at Wembley Stadium

Poland are quietly confident - especially after their encouraging performance in the 2-1 loss at Wembley last March.

But then again, the Poles will also need England to drop points against other opposition following their own 3-3 draw with Hungary at the start of the qualifying group.

Gareth Southgate's side may be in pole position but that doesn't mean the sleeping giants of Eastern Europe are not capable of a 1973 repeat.

READ MORE: Six of the best: England's biggest victories in World Cup qualifiers

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