Boring, predictable … but with spirit to burn and in Lewandowski they still boast one of the best No 9s in world football

Wojciech Szczesny takes the plaudits from his teammates after his penalty shootout heroics send Poland past Wales in the playoffs. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


The appointment of Fernando Santos, who won Euro 2016 with Portugal, as new national team coach was meant to calm the mood around the team after a turbulent World Cup in Qatar. He was a well-known name with success on his CV and experience of working with world-class players. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, it turns out. Santos, in fact, turned out to be a hopeless choice. The qualifying group seemed easy on paper and the thinking was that Poland could qualify for the Euros while also starting a rejuvenation of the squad and introduce several young players who could become the spine of the team after legends such as Wojciech Szczesny or Robert Lewandowski retire.

The qualifying campaign started with a loss against the Czech Republic and continued with a defeat by Moldova, the lowest-ranked team to ever beat Poland. In addition Santos’s body language in press conferences was so bad that it became clear a parting of ways would be the best solution.

A defeat by Albania in September 2023 sealed the Portuguese’s fate and the Polish FA gave the job to Michal Probierz instead. At the beginning of 2023 it was seen as madness to appoint him but the 51-year-old picked up the pieces of this broken team and did just enough to get them to the Euros.

It wasn’t always pretty though. After a win against the Faroe Islands and a draw with Moldova, Poland lost to the Czechs meaning they had to go through the playoffs. There they beat Estonia 5-1 in the semis and Wales on penalties in the final after both opponents had been reduced to 10 men.

Supporters are not deluding themselves thinking that Poland will qualify from the “group of death” that also features France, the Netherlands and Austria. Expectations are very low but that has often worked well in the past with Polish players. Probierz has repeatedly said that this is no time for a revolution. He has a safety-first approach with a 3-5-2 system and it is not difficult to predict who will start the opener against the Dutch.

It has been a long time since we’ve seen a Polish national team go toe-to-toe with a stronger rival. Poland are boring and predictable. However, anything is possible in football and maybe, just maybe, Poland will surprise us all.