Poland vs Iceland
With the Euros just six days away, the long-awaited tournament is finally in view, and excited fans throughout Europe are making their preparations for a festival of football.
Meanwhile, on the pitches around the continent, final adjustments are being made by head coaches as they all settle on the players they are ready to send into battle.
This International Friendly gives Paulo Sousa a chance to make any last-minute decisions on his Poland team before they head to Euro 2020, while his opposite number, Arnar Vidarson, will hope his own team can continue an improved run of form, as they will be watching from the sidelines having failed to qualify.
It’s an interesting concept, one team playing cautiously with players’ priorities being to avoid injury, while trying to impress their coach, the other with nothing to lose, a summer of leisure ahead and a big scalp on offer.
Will Sousa give Lewandowski a run-out?
Poland played out a 1-1 draw with Russia last week, which wasn’t exactly easy on the eye but they showed enough to suggest they can prosper at Euro 2020 in a Group C containing Spain, Sweden and Slovakia.
They started against Russia without Robert Lewandowski which gave Jakub Swierczok a chance to impress up front, and the Piast Gliwice striker was on the score sheet in the first real attack of the game.
The international friendly 2021 betting oddsare heavily backing a home win against Iceland, but a lot will depend, as it always does, on whether FC Bayern’s prolific striker plays some part.
Lewandowski is a goal scoring phenomenon, scoring over 40 goals in all competitions for the last six seasons. During this past campaign he scored an eye-watering 48 in 43 games for club and country and, here’s a stat you’ll like, with 66 international goals Lewandowski has scored twice as many as Scotland’s entire 26-man squad!
Since taking over as head coach in January, Paulo Sousa has favoured a 3-5-2 system which he is sure to use at the Euros, and he may want to see either Marseille’s Arkadiusz Milik, or maybe Swierczok, alongside Lewandowski for some part of the game.
Behind the front two, Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski is a player to watch, a cultured midfielder with a superb passing range and willingness to get forward in support of his attack, while Leeds midfielder Mateusz Klich was the most impressive player in the draw with Russia.
And there’s an interesting dilemma for the boss between the sticks. Keeper Lukasz Fabianski was disappointed with Russia’s goal which crept through his legs, but he enjoyed a brilliant season with the Hammers who qualified for the Europa League, while Juventus stopper Wojciech Szczesny will hope to add to his 52 caps.
We’ll miss Iceland at the Euros
Euro 2020 will be without one of the most popular nations as Iceland have missed out on the finals. They won the hearts of the continent when they qualified for Euro 2016, where they beat England to reach the quarter finals. They then qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the famous Viking Thunderclap reverberated around the stadiums.
Iceland come into the match with two wins from the last three games, beating Liechtenstein 4-1 in a World Cup qualifier and the Faroe Islands in a friendly last week, thanks to a goal from 22-year-old midfielder Mikael Anderson. In between those two victories they lost 2-1 to Mexico.
Iceland have actually lost eight of their last 10 games. Arnar Vidarson has selected an inexperienced defence for this match with only 26-year-old Hjortur Hermannsson holding more than six caps, the 6 ft 3in Brondby centre back has 21, and his relative experience will be essential if his team is to hold Poland’s attackers at bay.
Most of the Icemen’s experience comes in midfield: inspirational skipper Aaron Gunnarsson, who now plays for Al-Arabi, is homing in on 100 caps, with 96 in his locker, while Birkir Bjarnason has 97.
And up front, the biggest threat comes from 31-year-old Goteborg striker Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, who has scored 26 goals in 64 appearances. He’s the joint top scorer of all time for Iceland, alongside former Chelsea and Barcelona star Eidur Gudjohnsen, and is sure to take sole possession of that honour before long.
Poland have been World Cup semi-finalists twice, in 1974 and 1982, while reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, alongside Iceland.
The hosts have been impressive at home recently, losing just one in seven, while Iceland have lost five of their last seven games on the road.
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