Poland's Dortmund trio living up to hype
Poland was counting on its Borussia Dortmund trio to provide the engine for the national team at the European Championship, and so far they haven't disappointed.
Since taking over as Poland coach in late 2009, Franciszek Smuda has overhauled the squad and built it anew around the talents of Dortmund teammates Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek.
''They play for a big club that won titles this past year, which is a testament to their skills,'' Poland midfielder Ludovic Obraniak said. ''Kuba is our captain, Lewy our top scorer and Lukasz is our solid right back and has been for a long time. The team turns principally around them.''
Lewandowski has impressed up front playing as Poland's sole striker, and scored with a powerful header from Blaszczykowski's cross in the opening 1-1 draw against Greece last week. Blaszczykowski then scored with a perfectly struck left-footed drive from the edge of the area to give Poland a 1-1 draw with Russia on Tuesday.
Piszczek, meanwhile, has been a constant attacking source from right back, using fluid one-touch passing with Blaszczykowski down that flank to create scoring opportunities for Lewandowski.
The trio have been just as crucial to Dortmund, helping the German club to its second straight Bundesliga title last season and a domestic double.
But Lewandowski's season and talents have attracted the most attention, with Manchester United among the big clubs in Europe reportedly showing an interest.
The 23-year-old scored 22 goals in 34 league matches for Dortmund last season to win the Bundesliga's Player of the Year award. He's shown the ability to use his strength and agility to play with his back to goal and feed teammates moving forward or quickly turn and shoot himself.
''He's made an amazing amount of progress. He's a star at Dortmund, and played a huge role in the club winning a second consecutive league title,'' said Poland Football Federation president Grzegorz Lato, himself a star striker for Poland and the top scorer at the 1974 World Cup.
''I hope he continues to develop. He's a young man with big career ahead of him and some of the biggest clubs in Europe are interested in him.''
With his cool-headed scoring ability and habit of producing his best in marquee matches, Lewandowski has given Poland its most dangerous scoring threat in a generation.
But the undisputed on-field leader of the team is Blaszczykowski, who can often be seen barking commands and encouraging teammates on the pitch when the momentum has swung against his side.
''He is the heart of the team and the captain as well,'' said Poland defender Damien Perquis. ''He's well-loved in the country, he's a guy who had a great season with Dortmund and he's full of confidence.''
Piszczek began his career as a striker before moving into midfield and finally finding a home in defense, although his talent up front remains.
He scored four goals and added seven assists for Dortmund last season while still being solid in defense, and is considered by many to be the best right back in the Bundesliga.
It's these talents that Poland will be calling on yet again on Saturday for the team's final Group A match, against the Czech Republic, where a win would secure the co-host a place in the quarterfinals.