One of the most respected teams of the 1970s, Poland will be making just their fifth overall appearance in a World Cup in Korea/Japan, and their first since 1986, a surprising span of 16 years. In their history, Poland twice collected the bronze medal at the World Cup, in 1974 in Germany and in 1982 in Spain. To qualify for the 2002 World Cup in UEFA “Group 5”, Poland compiled an impressive 6-1-3 record, which included a strong unbeaten run of eight games to open group play and become the first European team to qualify for Korea/Japan (other than defending champions France). The Poles were led in qualifying by Emmanuel Olisadebe (a naturalized citizen from Nigeria), who scored eight of their 19 goals in qualifying, tied for third best in UEFA. Below is a quick recap of Poland’s previous World Cup experience.
Qualification - Poland earned their first trip to a World Cup competition after defeating Yugoslavia in a home-and-home series for UEFA Group 3 ... Poland took the first game of the home-and-home series with a 4-0 blanking on Oct. 10, 1937 ... The second match was held in Yugoslavia on Mar. 4, 1938 and saw the host record a 1-0 win, but Poland advanced 4-1 on aggregate score ...
WC ‘38 – As it was in 1930, the 1938 World Cup competition was held as a single-elimination stage ... Under head coach Jozef Kalusza, Poland were knocked out of the tournament after losing a 6-5 overtime thriller to Brazil in the first round on June 5, in Strasbroug ... A four-goal performance by forward Ernest Willimowski and a tally by midfielder Fryderyk Scherfke wasn’t enough as Brazilian midfielder Da Silva Leonidas notched four goals and forward Berjun Peracio added two more in the victory.
WEST GERMANY 1974
Qualification - After a 36-year absence, Poland once again returned to the World Cup after finishing first in UEFA Group 5, which included England and Wales, with an overall ledger of 2-1-1 ...
WC ‘74 - With Kazimierz Gorski at the helm, Poland opened the World Cup in Group D with a 3-2 victory over Argentina on June 14, in Stuttgart ... Poland jumped out to a 2-0 lead early with back-to-back tallies by midfielder Grzegorz Lato in the seventh minute of play and forward Andrzej Szarmach 60 seconds later ... After Argentina cut the lead to 2-1 in the 60th minute, Lato scored his second of the game two minutes later ... Argentina scored again in the 66th minute but Poland held on for the win ... Poland made it two Group D wins in a row on June 19 in Munich as the squad easily trounced Haiti 7-0 ... Szarmach led the offense posting a hat trick, while Lato added two tallies ... Midfielder Kazimierz Deyna and defender Jerzy Gordon closed out the scoring for Poland ... Deyna would go on to star for the San Diego Sockers in the NASL after the team’s World Cup and Olympic success … With a berth in the second round secured and just the Group D first place spot up for grabs, Poland made it three-for-three after posting a 2-1 victory over Italy on June 23 in Stuttgart ... Szarmach and Deyna gave Poland a 2-0 lead with tallies in the 38th and 45th minutes, respectively ... Italy got on the board late in the game but Poland held on for the 2-1 win ... In second round action, Poland was placed in Group B and began the competition with a 1-0 shutout over Sweden as Lato provided the game-winner on June 26, in Stuttgart ... Poland’s four-game winning streak came to an end on June 30 in Frankfurt as Yugoslavia handed them a 2-1 defeat ... Lato once again had the only tally for Poland in the loss ... Another one-goal defeat this time to the host West Germany (1-0) on July 3 in Frankfurt eliminated Poland from a spot in the championship final ... West Germany would go on to win the World Cup by topping Holland in the finals 2-1 ... Poland closed out the World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Brazil in the third-place consolation match on July 6, in Munich ... Lato scored his seventh goal of the tournament and the game-winner in the win over Brazil.
Qualification - Poland advanced to their second consecutive World Cup after winning the UEFA Group 1 qualifying with a 5-0-1 overall mark ...
WC ’78 - Led by Head Coach Jazek Gmoch, Poland opened the World Cup competition in Group B with a scoreless draw against defending champion West Germany on July 1 in Buenos Aires ... Playing in his second consecutive World Cup, midfielder Grzegorz Lato continued where he left off for Poland as he scored the game-winner in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia on July 6 in Rosario ... Poland ended group play taking the top spot with a 3-1 win over Mexico on July 10 in Rosario ... Forward Zbigniew Boniek scored twice, while midfielder Kazimierz Deyna added another in the win ... Poland stumbled in the second round as they dropped the opener of Group B to the host Argentina 2-0 on July 14 in Rosario ... The squad rebounded four days later (July 18) with a 1-0 win over Peru in Mendoza, Poland lost a 3-1 decision to Brazil on July 21 in Mendoza and were eliminated from tournament play.
Qualification - Poland clinched their third consecutive trip to the world cup after capturing the UEFA Group 7 title with a perfect 4-0 overall ledger ...
WC ‘82 - Under head coach Antoni Piechniczek, Poland opened tournament play in Group A with a scoreless draw against Italy on June 14, in Vigo ... Five days later, Poland was once again held scoreless after a 0-0 deadlock against Cameroon in La Coruna ... The back-to-back scoreless streak ended on June 22 in La Coruna when Poland topped Peru 5-1 to clinch the Group A title and a berth in the second round ... Forward Wlodzimirerz Smolarek opened the scoring in the 55th minute of the second half ... Playing in his third consecutive World Cup, midfielder Grzegorz Lato added another in the 58th minute, while teammate Zbigniew Boniek made it 3-0 three minutes later ... Midfielder Andrzej Buncol increased the lead in the 68th minute and then second half substitute Wlodzimierz Ciolek closed out the scoring in the 76th minute for Poland ... The second round began with Poland placed in Group A along with Belgium and the U.S.S.R. ... Boniek’s hat-trick led Poland to a convincing 3-0 win over Belgium on June 28 in Barcelona ... Poland clinched a spot in the semifinal round after battling the U.S.S.R. to a 0-0 tie to finish first in group play on July 4 in Barcelona ... In a rematch from the first round, Poland dropped a 2-0 decision to Italy in the semis on July 8 in Barcelona, marking the third straight World Cup in which the Poles would lose to the eventual champion when Italy went on to win their third World Cup … Poland would settle for third place for the second time in three World Cups, topping France on July 10 in Alicante.
Qualification - Poland made their fourth straight World Cup appearance after finishing first in the UEFA Group 1 qualifying with a 3-1-2 mark ...
WC’86 - With Antoni Piechniczek once again at helm, Poland were placed in Group F in the opening round along with England, Portugal and Morocco ... Poland began group play with a 0-0 draw against Morocco on June 2 in Monterrey ... Four days later (June 7), forward Wlodzimierz Smolarek scored the game-winner for Poland in a 1-0 victory over Portugal in Monterrey ... Poland closed out group play dropping a 3-0 decision to England on June 11 in Monterrey ... Forward Gary Lineker notched a hat-trick to lead England in the win ... Despite the defeat, Poland still advanced to the “Round of 16" as one of the four best third-place finishers ... Brazil ended Poland’s run after handing them a 4-0 defeat in the “Round of 16" on June 16 in Guadalajara … It would be a long 16-year gap before Poland would make it back to the World Cup in Korea/Japan in 2002.