Fabianski and Szczesny to battle for Poland starting spot

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A

With Poland facing Portugal in the UEFA Nations League tomorrow, their manager Jerzy Brzeczek will have a tough decision to make. Unlike most teams, the dilemma he faces is who he’ll put between the sticks for the tie. Whereas as most national teams have a nailed on number one, Poland called upon both Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski during the last international break.

With both having new roles at club level this season and one game apiece last time around, it will be interesting to see who Brzeczek picks. Fabianski moved to West Ham United from Swansea City in the summer for a sum of £8 million. His performances for the East London club have made this seem like a bargain, as alongside Marko Arnautovic he has been the club’s outstanding performer, even when times have been tough for the Hammers. According to the official Premier League site, he is tied with Joe Hart in making the most saves in the league this season, with 36 stops.

Szczesny may not have moved club, but with Gianluigi Buffon leaving Juventus for PSG, his role within the club has changed significantly. He’s seen off competition from new recruit Mattia Perin to play nine of Juventus’ 10 matches in all competitions this campaign. He’s won every competitive game he’s played this season, keeping five clean sheets.

With the pedigree of club they play for differing, Szczesny seems like the obvious choice to go in goal against the Portuguese. However, Fabianski’s showing this campaign means he must be considered for the role. In addition to his club form, he performed admirably against Italy, producing numerous brilliant saves. In the end it took an effort from the penalty spot to beat him, as Jorginho converted after Jakub Blaszczykowski had fouled Federico Chiesa in the box. Fabianski’s performance may not have been enough to earn himself a clean sheet, but he was rewarded with a point for his team.

The third choice goalkeeper for Poland this time around is Lukasz Skorupski. The 27-year-old who plays his club football for Bologna has two Poland caps to his name. Fabianski and Szczesny have earned 42 and 38 caps respectively.

The Portugal side Poland are facing will be without Cristiano Ronaldo. However, with the likes of Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, RB Leipzig’s Bruma and Sevilla striker Andre Silva in the team there will still be a significant threat to be dealt with by the chosen keeper and their defence.

Following the aforementioned draw with Italy, Poland sit second of the three teams in the UEFA Nations League’s League A Group 3. They are currently two points behind Portugal, who themselves beat Italy in their opening game in the competition. A win for Poland will see them top the group before they host Italy on Sunday night.

The two stoppers in question know each other well, having both been at Arsenal, as well as fighting for the starting spot for Poland’s national team in recent times. Whoever gets the go ahead to start in goal tomorrow night will know they’ll have to perform well to keep their place in the long run.


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Marko Arnautovic concludes West Ham’s UEFA Nations League involvement

Marko Arnautovic

The first ever round of UEFA Nations League fixtures have come to a close. There were some incredible score lines across the board as Spain beat Croatia 6-0, Switzerland won 6-0 against Iceland and Luxembourg had a 4-0 victory over Moldova. Of the many players involved in the competition, four of them were from West Ham: Lukasz Fabianski, Andriy Yarmolenko, Robert Snodgrass and Marko Arnautovic. They had varying levels of success though.

Of the four it is Yarmolenko who’s struggled most for the Hammers this season, as he hasn’t started a single Premier League match since joining from Borussia Dortmund. However, it is the Ukrainian winger who has had the most success during the international break. Ukraine were the only team in League B Group 1 to play twice; they’re also the only side to have any points, after winning both matches, with Yarmolenko central to their success.

In the opening fixture against Czech Republic, Patrick Schick put the Czechs ahead after just four minutes. It was Yarmolenko who led the Ukrainian charge with some dangerous balls into the box following that setback. He was involved when the men in yellow equalised as he dummied Marlos’ pass which went to Evgen Konoplyanka, who cut inside and fired the ball into the bottom corner. Yarmolenko was brought off in the 66th minute, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko. It was the Manchester City man who scored the winner in the dying moments of the match.

The second game of Ukraine’s Nations League campaign came at home against Slovakia. Once again Yarmolenko made the difference as he scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 80th minute, despite Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka getting his hand to the ball.

Next up was Lukasz Fabianski, who beat Wojciech Szczesny to the starting spot in Poland’s goal for the tie against Italy. Poland took the lead in the 40th minute when Mateusz Klich dispossessed Jorginho near the edge of Italy’s box, offloaded the ball to Robert Lewandoski, who crossed it towards the back post where Piotr Zielinski was on hand to volley into the net.

As he has done for the Hammers throughout this season, Fabianski made a number of impressive saves in the game. However, after Jakub Blaszczykowski had fouled Federico Chiesa inside the box, there was nothing the keeper could do to stop Jorginho’s penalty as he was sent the wrong way; the game ended 1-1.

Robert Snodgrass was not originally part of Scotland’s squad, but was brought into the fold when West Bromwich Albion’s Matt Phillips withdrew through injury. Snodgrass is now getting plenty of time on the pitch at West Ham, but was left on the bench for the entirety of Scotland’s 2-0 win against Albania. It was an own goal from Berat Djimsiti and a 68th minute header from Steven Naismith which earned the Scots all three points.

Marko Arnautovic was the last of West Ham’s quartet to make an appearance in the Nations League, as his Austria side faced Bosnia & Herzegovina away from home. It was a tame affair for the majority of the game. Arnautovic gave Ibrahim Sehic his biggest test of the match with a curling effort from outside the box in the 14th minute, but the Büyüksehir Belediye Erzurumpsor and Bosnia & Herzegovina keeper was able to tip it over the bar. In the end, it was AS Roma’s Edin Dzeko who made the difference as he scored in the 78th minute to earn the home side a 1-0 win.

All four of the West Ham players will now be looking ahead to the Hammers’ next fixture, Sunday’s away fixture against Everton, alongside the rest of the squad.

Genoa’s Krzysztof Piątek hits the ground running in Italy


Polish internationals have traveled in droves onto Italian soil over these past handful of years, observing Serie A as the ideal platform to launch their respective careers and make a name for themselves in football. Lech Poznań academy graduates Karol Linetty, Bartosz Bereszyński and Dawid Kownacki of Sampdoria have recently joined Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zieliński and Wojciech Szczęsny on this ‘calcio’ journey, testing new waters and basking in all of Italy’s beauty.

The road has been paved for many of their fellow Polish countrymen to follow suit and revel in the same success, and so far, Genoa’s Krzysztof Piątek is doing just that. Continue reading

Colombia survive the group of death


After suffering a defeat to Japan in the first fixture of Group H, a lot of people were having doubts on whether Colombia would be able to pick themselves up from the floor and turn the situation around before it is too late. Also, the experts of the beautiful game were seriously shocked at their start to the competition as many had the South American side down as their dark horses of the tournament.

However, Los Cafeteros do what they do best, and they made sure that they were not going to leave Russia and most importantly the World Cup anytime soon. Once James Rodriguez returned into the line-up for the second game against Poland, the side were in full confidence and had the ability as well as the pure mentality to go on to beating Adam Nawalka’s side like it was a piece of cake.

With the goals coming from Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao and Yerry Mina, the side have shown that there a number of talented players in all positions, who can go on to contribute towards the team on both sides of the pitch. Meanwhile in midfield, both Abel Aguilar and Wilmar Barrios were dictating play and keeping the Polish attackers quiet as well as helping the team progress forward.

In the final fixture of the group stages, Colombia had to make sure they picked up the three points against Senegal whilst the other match was been Japan and Poland. Despite having a slow start to the game, the side turned it up a notch in the second half and completed an incredible smash and grab victory, where Mina’s goal in the 75th minute put the team ahead and in the driving seat.

Up next, Jose Pekerman and Colombia will go head-to-head against Gareth Southgate’s England, who will have a huge point to prove as the Three Lions have been eliminated, from the European Championship or the World Cup in the group stages or the Round of 16 on many occasions. On Tuesday evening, football fans will see a thrilling match between two fearless and passionate sides.

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Japan set up tie against high flying Belgium


The final set of games in Group H were set up perfectly with three teams battling it out for just two places in the next round. With their draw against Senegal, Japan stayed level at the top of the group and knew that a draw against Poland would be enough to see them through to the knockout stages. Japan could also still qualify through the group with a loss but would need Colombia to beat Senegal. This suited Japan as Colombia needed to win themselves to ensure qualification but the Samurai Blue would have wanted to leave matters in their own hands as Senegal needed only one point to finish in the top two spots.

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World Cup Weekly Recap


A couple of shockers, late drama, clutch goals: the third round of the group stage did not fall flat. The biggest surprise was obviously Germany dropping the ball against South Korea: Die Mannschaft just had to win two-nil (or more) to be safe, but despite multiple good chances, they did not manage to score and eventually the Taeguk Warriors took advantage of their unbalanced tactics and punished them, much to the jubilation of Mexico.

The World Cup Champion curse continues, as also Spain in 2014, Italy in 2010 and France in 2002 also were not able to get past the first phase after lifting the trophy. Continue reading

Japan in pole position to make the knockout stages


As expected, the Japanese struggled against Senegalese counterattacks but perhaps unexpectedly for them they managed to battle out a 2-2 draw against a team they knew were stronger than them all across the pitch. Japan played better than perhaps even they thought they would and now find themselves in a great position to qualify from Group H.

The draw against Senegal saw Japan stay level at the top of the group with their African counterparts whilst Colombia’s comprehensive win against Poland saw the Eastern European country crash out with a whimper. With these two results Japan now understand that a draw or better against an already knocked out Poland will see them qualify for the Round of 16 for the first time since 2010. The Samurai Blue could also advance to the knockout stages with a loss if Senegal beats Colombia but will want to leave matters in their own hands.

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #21 – Lee Stobbs on England


The lads are back with a catch up of all the goings-on during the World Cup so far. Dave reveals his true colours (anything but the white shirt of England) while Jamie and guest Lee Stobbs happily agree on Gareth Southgate’s standing as England boss.

All the groups are given the usual treatment, and a roundup of Dave and Jamie’s predictions ahead of the tournament show that one of the two seems to confuse himself when it comes to points scoring.

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Colombia’s thrashing of Poland delivered wake-up call to Poles


Poland crashed out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, just as quickly as they returned after 12 years away from the competition.

The Poles entered the tournament as FIFA’s 8th ranked nation, a position most felt they weren’t entirely deserving of when you consider their WCQ opponents. Perennial powers like Spain (10), England (12), Uruguay (14), Mexico (15) and Colombia (16) – who delivered the fatal blow to the Biało-czerwoni’s World Cup hopes last Sunday 3-0 – sat behind Poland in the rankings, perhaps showing the flaws embedded in FIFA’s ranking process.

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Colombia send Poland crashing out of the World Cup


It was a huge and monumental night at the Kazan Arena, where both Colombia and Poland had to beat one another to make sure they are not eliminated from the World Cup group stages before the third fixture of the competition had arrived. As both sides lost their first match, the pressure and expectation has massively increased due to Group H being seen as the group of death in Russia.

As James Rodriguez was brought back into starting the line-up and William Barrios came in to replace the suspended Carlos Sanchez, Jose Pekerman’s men went on to dominate a mentally-weak Poland side, who could simply not get into the game and match Colombia on and off the ball.

The South American side started the game well by dominating possession in the opposition’s half, with the defence playing high up the pitch whilst the likes of Rodriguez and Juan Quintero were both getting themselves into dangerous areas. Also, the energetic full-backs in Johan Mojica and Santiago Arias showed high level of stamina and fighting spirit as they constantly ran up and down the pitch.

Colombia took the lead just a couple of minutes before half-time, where Rodriguez’s cross was met by the head of Yerry Mina, as he slot it passed Wojciech Szczesny and into the back of the net. Given how Los Cafeteros were playing over the last 15-20 minutes of the first half, a goal was surely coming their way despite the fact that Poland were actually the better side for the first half an hour.

In the second half, it was purely one-sided and quite an unconvincing performance from Poland, who seemed like they were down to ten men and were just catching the shadows of the Colombia players. Due to this, the goals of Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado came in quick succession and on the counter-attack, where the Poles were positionally poor and defensively outnumbered.

From the first minute of the game till the end, the standout individuals for Colombia were – James Rodriguez, Juan Quintero, William Barrios and Yerry Mina. The whole side played great as a whole and as well-organised unit, but these four players were purely the difference and the main reason to why the side kept as a clean sheet as well racked up a few goals to increase their goal difference.

Mina experienced many one-on-one duels with Robert Lewandowski, in which he handled very effectively and calmly at a time where his side need him the most. Meanwhile, Barrios was all over the pitch and was dictating the play for his side as well as making sure that Poland’s counter-attacks was intercepted and prevented through his aggressiveness and his ability to read the game well.

Rodriguez and Quintero were the key reasons to why their team-mates were receiving clear-cut chances and more time on the ball in the opposition’s half. Although both players were closely marked and watched by Poland’s defence and midfield, it allowed the full-backs as well as Juan Cuadrado to go on to progressing forward with the ball and becoming a huge threat on the flanks.

Overall, Colombia have passed their first test and have another huge one coming up soon, which is against second-place Senegal. Pekerman’s side have to win the battle between themselves and the African side, in order to completely secure their spot into the knockout stages. Meanwhile, Poland face Japan, who could also play a key part in how the standings is finalised in a couple of days time.

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