Saints at the Euros: Jan Bednarek


Our series of previews featuring the Southampton quartet set to represent their countries at EURO 2020 continues with Poland’s Jan Bednarek…

Poland comfortably secured their place at the finals with eight wins out of 10 from a group containing fellow qualifiers Austria and North Macedonia, spearheaded by the world-class Robert Lewandowski.

However, with an average of 1.8 goals per game, the Poles were the lowest-scoring group winners, and rely heavily on the Bayern Munich frontman to be at his clinical best.

The Nations League matches last autumn were probably a good indicator of the team’s status in the current international football landscape – defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina home and away, whilst taking only one point from four games against Italy and Netherlands.

Poland are not among the home nations at EURO 2020, but face only one game on opposition territory, which is their toughest-looking group match against Spain in Seville.

It puts further pressure on making a strong start against Group E outsiders Slovakia, before a potentially defining final game against Sweden, with both of those fixtures taking place in Russia – the scene of a disastrous World Cup for Lewandowski and co. in 2018.

Winning the group would see them face a third-place team in the last 16, finishing second would pit them against the runners-up from England’s group, and going through in third would likely lead to a meeting with Belgium.

Monday 14th June

Poland vs Slovakia

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg

ITV, 5pm BST

Saturday 19th June

Spain vs Poland

Estadio La Cartuja, Seville

BBC, 8pm BST

Wednesday 23rd June

Sweden vs Poland

Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg

ITV, 5pm BST

Paulo Sousa will be a familiar name to English football fans, having managed QPR, Swansea and Leicester between 2008 and 2010.

A two-time Champions League-winning midfielder, Sousa won more than 50 caps for Portugal and has also managed clubs in Hungary, Israel, Switzerland, Italy, China and France.

Now in his first senior international role, Sousa expects his team to dominate possession and press high to win the ball back quickly in order to keep supplying the mercurial Lewandowski.

Even by Lewandowski’s standards, 41 Bundesliga goals in 2020/21 was something special, as he broke Gerd Müller’s long-standing record for the most goals scored in a German top-flight season.

As brilliant as he is, Poland’s No 9 has seen his supporting cast cut down by injury, with fellow forwards Arkadiusz Milik and Krzysztof Piatek both ruled out, placing extra emphasis on Napoli playmaker Piotr Zielinski to deliver the bullets for the skipper.

At the back, Bednarek is a certain starter in front of either Lukasz Fabianski or Wojciech Szczesny in goal, regardless of whether Poland start with two or three central defenders. Their success in qualifying was built on a solid base that earned them seven clean sheets.