In an already slim defensive unit, Poland manager Adam Nawałka was dealt a major blow on the final day 2018 World Cup rosters were due when star centre-half Kamil Glik injured his shoulder in training attempting a bicycle kick. Initial reports were ruling him out of the tournament altogether for the Biało-czerwoni as the 30-year old’s injury was believed to require several weeks to heal. However, just days before the tournament was to kick off in Russia with Group A, Glik was cleared and confirmed to be in the Poland squad – of which provided quite a bit of relief amongst supporters of the dark-horse nation.
The Monaco defender has been a stalwart in the back ever since the Poles impressive 2016 European Championship quarter-final run where – together with Michał Pazdan – a stable international tandem was formed. Throughout the World Cup Qualifying campaign however, maintaining that same high grade of defending proved difficult for Poland as a collective unit, they conceded 14 goals in 10 matches.
Perhaps it was superstar striker Robert Lewandowski’s record-setting 16 goal effort to become Poland’s all-time leading scorer, and their Group E victory, that veiled some of the deficiencies in Nawalka’s squad – none more significant than the defence.
Pazdan and Glik remained the clear-cut favorites to anchor the four-man backline for Poland, despite the former’s drop in play during the last Ekstraklasa campaign for Legia Warsaw. Glik, however, remained sharp for Monaco in Ligue 1 and proved throughout the past year why he is held in such high regard in Poland camp.
To open group stage play, Poland square off with Senegal followed by Colombia, two clashes they will have to maneuver through without their central commander Glik maintaining order, as the earliest he is slated to return is versus Japan. Stuttgart’s Marcin Kaminski or SPAL’s Thiago Cionek do not provide nearly the same solidity and strength as the former Torino centre-half does. However, this opportunity should serve as motivation for the replacements who could really become national heroes by deputizing for Glik with elevated efforts in his absence.
As for Poland’s wide defenders, the hope is that Bartosz Bereszyński (Sampdoria) and the veteran presence of Łukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund) will tighten things up on the flanks and assist in bringing the White and Reds back to their previous form that made them a dark-horse in the first place upon conclusion of their 2016 Euro.
Along with group favorite Colombia, Senegal pose as a real threat in Group E and a side that some believe can upset Poland and make it out of the group. Eyes will be fixated on Lewandowski and his supporting stars Piotr Zieliński and Arkadiusz Milik, yet one could argue the distance Poland travels in this competition could come down to whether or not they can improve their defence, tighten the hinges and replicate those efforts from two years ago.
Pazdan – and one of Cionek or Kaminski – must hold it down, and allow for Glik to prove why he is as important as any player Poland have in the squad.
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