Lewandowski in the company of the victorious Brazilians and French
The Polish team have not been the luckiest of teams, nor has their current leader, stopping one step away from the big finals at the World Cups. But they have given the world a host of legends and an entire line-up of Munich Olympic champions, about whom it is time to tell.
We know, we know, but the Poles rightly believe they have plenty of great goalkeepers. The best known outside the country is Tomaszewski, the best goalscorer at the ’74 World Cup. But both Jan and the experts highlighted both new age lads such as Dudek, Szczesny and Boruc, and Mlynarczyk, the legend of Widzew and Porto. Jozef won the European Cup with the Dragons, just as Dudek did with Liverpool. He was held scoreless against Dynamo Kyiv in the semi-finals and prevented Bayern from scoring more than one goal in the final.
Poles played well at the Olympics in the seventies. Szymanowski won the gold in 1972, losing only to GDR in the final four years later. They beat Brazil in the semi-finals, before beating them two years earlier in the men’s third-place match at the ’74 FIFA World Cup, where “total football” finally took hold. The Poles played strongly, with Szymanowski closing down the right flank and playing at home for Vistula. Antoni was ahead of Marek Dziuba, another famous Polish right-back.
Now this is a world class legend. Żmuda spent many years at Szląska, represented Widzew, played at Verona and New York Cosmos but, more importantly, he represented Poland for thirteen years. The only Pole to have played in four World Cups. He started in 1974, becoming the tournament’s best young player and joining the ranks of Pele, Albert, Beckenbauer and Cubillas.
Long was introduced to the world at Gurnik, the only club for which Jerzy played as an adult. He came of age in the seventies and played over fifty games for the national team. The tall, blond-haired man has been Poland’s champion twice, taking domestic honours at the Olympics and World Cup as well as a European Cup final. “Gurnik lost in 1970 to Manchester City in the crucial Cup Winners’ Cup final in Vienna. Imagine, the Citizens had won the European Cup.
Not the most famous guy on the list, but while we’re on the subject of defenders, Anczok, although injuries prevented him from being part of the winning World Cup squad in ’74, is a Polish football legend. Zygmunt played for Polonia for many years before moving to champions Gurnik towards the end of his career. The Poles rated Anczok higher than Adam Musiała, who competed against him in the national team.
Possibly the best of the bunch when it comes to pure talent. The General, as he was known, was in charge of Poland’s game. A lop-eared muzhik with an open mouth, he cleverly evaded opponents in midfield, easily finding an addressee for passes. Elegant, technical. Would have played for a European giants now, but Manchester City didn’t get him until his thirties. Starred with Stallone and Pele in “Escape to Victory”, played in San Diego before his death in 1989 in a car crash.
If Deyna is De Bruyne – lots of goals, tying up lines – then Kasperczak could impress with his passes from midfield and his ability to take the ball away. Henric spent many years in Poland playing for Stal – winning the league title twice before leaving for Metz. He received French nationality and spent many years coaching in Europe and Africa. Not as classy as Dejna but still a significant figure in the history of Polish football.
Boniek is an attacking midfielder and striker but this squad needs him in the ‘ten’ position. One of Trapattoni’s great Juventus line-up, winner of Champions and Cup Winners’ Cups. A superstar of his time, the Italian champion, a member of the 1982 World Cup squad and runner-up at the tournament where they crashed out of the future Italian champions in the semi-finals but beat France in the third-place match. Now Bonec, UEFA’s vice-president, has analysed the decision to suspend Rybus from the national team.
Many put the legendary forward ahead of Lewandowski but from the early 1960s to the late 1970s it was Włodzimierz who was Poland’s all-time leading striker. And then, for decades, no-one could break his record of 48 goals in 75 games before Robert came on board. Lubański was fondly known as Włodek, having played for Górnik and scored for Lockerne and was top scorer in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final.
Winger Leto was a real hawk on the right wing. Like Lubański, he played for Lockerne but spent his career mainly with Stal. Made it to Canada via Mexico but that was the end of his career. On the other hand, he played incredibly strongly for the national team – 42 goals in 95 games, won games in Munich and was twice World Cup bronze medallist. Like Zmuda, Boniek and Lewandowski are world class footballers, timeless legends. Many will still know Willimowski, but Ernst has tarnished himself by playing for the German national team in the early 40s, dispensing with the honours.
There’s no need to feature this lad alongside veterans. The Polish national team are not as strong now as they were in the seventies and early eighties, but they have produced an unlikely player. Lewandowski scored heavily for Borussia D – he missed out on the Russian clubs he was called up to, becoming a Bayern legend. They part like a divorced couple, but coach Xavi’s Barcelona is waiting for Lewandowski next. The Pole has won everything in Munich, including the Champions League.