Poles steeled up for Dublin battle
AS PART of the cross-cultural events building up to tomorrow's Euro 2016 qualifier in Dublin, Irish fans have been encouraged to learn a few football-related Polish language phrases, with radio presenters on RTE even getting in on the act to educate their listeners.
One word worth learning, to get an insight in the Polish mind for this game is 'walka'. It means 'fight'. And, without exception, every person associated with the Polish camp - current players, ex-internationals, blazers - who has expressed a view on Sunday's game has dragged that term into use (see also 'brutal', 'physical' and 'aerial battles' as well as one player's claim that watching the Scotland-Ireland game in November hurt his eyes).
Admittedly, Ireland are not the prettiest side in the world to watch and Martin O'Neill commented yesterday that, to him, "Poland are as physical a side as I have seen in some time".
But as they prepared to leave their Warsaw base, the Poles again steeled themselves for battle.
"Of course we are ready for this," said Karol Linetty, the Lech Poznan man likely to start in defence tomorrow night.
"At every meeting we've had, we have been told that a hard fight awaits us, that we will have to play a hard, fast game, but we cannot let ourselves be provoked.
"We have to think on our feet and do the jobs that we have been given. And I think we have the players capable of scoring and winning the game for us," added Linetty, who has yet to play against Ireland.
"Our last match shows that we know how to win. And now we are going for the three points. There is pressure but it won't get to us, and if we win, we will be very close to qualification."
Just as Martin O'Neill has a few issues to ponder between now and 7.45pm tomorrow, Adam Nawalka has some things on his mind.
The identity of his goalkeeper is the big puzzle for the Poland coach who, unlike O'Neill, has no recent injury worries of note to contend with (regular right back Lukasz Piszczek is of course missing but almost everyone else is fit and well). Wojciech Szczesny has been Poland's No. 1 for some time and his form in the remarkable win over Germany is giving some weight to the idea that he should keep his place in the side, despite the lack of first-team football at Arsenal.
Behind him are two keepers who are on top form in England, one in the Premier League (Swansea's Lukasz Fabianski) and the other in a side who could be in the Premier League next season (Artur Boruc).
It's odd that, as Ireland consider dropping their No. 1 in favour of someone who is not getting Premier League games and only plays in the FA Cup (Shay Given), the Poles might drop a man who gets FA Cup (but no league games), Szczesny, but Boruc is thought likely to get the nod and play in goal.