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World Cup 2006 profile

Poland's potent scorers can strike early and often

Posted: Friday January 6, 2006 5:25PM; Updated: Monday May 15, 2006 4:55PM
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Poland's strikers Maciej Zurawski (above) and Tomasz Frankowski are capable of giving defenses fits.
Poland's strikers Maciej Zurawski (above) and Tomasz Frankowski are capable of giving defenses fits.
Clive Rose/Getty Images

By Mark Bechtel, SI.com

Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Poland. Click here for the full archive.

FIFA world ranking: No. 28.

How they qualified: Finished second to England in UEFA Group 6 with an 8-0-2 record.

Previous World Cups: six appearances (1938, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2002). Third place in '78, '82.

Manager: Pawel Janas, third year with team.

Key players

The most recognizable name to American fans is probably Jerzy Dudek, whose heroics in goal boosted Liverpool to the Champions League title last May. But leading the Scousers to the Europe's top prize wasn't enough for Dudek to keep his job with the national team. He's been relegated to third choice at Anfield, prompting Janas to give the nod to Artur Boruc, who filled in for the national team when Dudek was injured.

Boruc has proven to be quite the opportunist. The 26-year-old moved from Legia Warsaw to Celtic on loan before the season, but when Scotland international David Marshall conceded nine goals in two matches, he was given the chance to play. He's taken advantage of the opportunity and made the position his own. The Bhoys have given up just 16 goals in 19 league games since the change, and manager Gordon Strachan recently made Boruc's transfer permanent. He stands a good chance of wearing the No. 1 jersey as well -- Dudek recently pleaded for Liverpool to transfer him so he could show off his form.

What to watch for

The Poles have a reputation as a workmanlike team, one that is often damned with faint praise of their "organization" and "effort." In reality, while their back four is aging and is a bit plodding, they are a fast team up front that has shown a knack for: a) getting results (in the past two World Cup cycles they have lost only three of 20 qualifiers); and b) scoring goals (though they lost both group games to England in qualifying, the Poles scored 10 more goals than Sven-Göran Eriksson's men overall). The strike partnership of Tomasz Frankowski and Maciej Zurawski bagged seven apiece.

Borussia Dortmund's Ebi Smolarek, the third-leading scorer in the Bundesliga, might not start, but he gives Janas an intriguing option off the bench: a midfielder/striker with great one-on-one skills, who picked up his moves -- and apparently a few other habits -- in Holland. Smolarek was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance found in hashish while with Feyenoord, earning him the nickname "The Hasch Bomber."

Group: A (Germany, Costa Rica, Ecuador)

Key match in group stage: June 20 vs. Costa Rica. In all likelihood, this one will decide who finishes second to Germany.

Oddsmakers' line: 80-1.

Projected Starting Lineup
Pos. Player Club team
G Artur Boruc Celtic (Scotland)
D Michal Zewlakow Anderlecht (Belgium)
D Tomasz Klos Wisla Krakow (Poland)
D Mariusz Jop FC Moscow (Russia)
D Marcin Baszczynski Wisla Krakow (Poland)
M Radoslaw Sobolewski Wisla Krakow (Poland)
M Jacek Krzynowek Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
M Kamil Kosowski Southampton (England)
M Miroslaw Szymkowiak Trabzonspor (Turkey)
F Tomasz Frankowski Elche (Spain)
F Maciej Zurawski Celtic (Scotland)