Feature

Expert view: Why Kiwior will be key for Poland

Kiwior preview

Ahead of Euro 2024, we spoke to Polish football journalist Kaz Mochlinski to discuss Jakub Kiwior’s importance to the Poland national team, and how they might fare in the competition.

You can read through his thoughts in the preview below.

Kiwior’s importance

“Jakub is very highly regarded in Poland. Polish football culture tends to be hyper-critical and very negative towards players, picking out flaws and faults. For example, it’s very difficult to be a goalkeeper like Wojciech Szczesny because every minor detail and error is criticised.

“Jakub is one of the first names on the teamsheet. He’s really impressive in the Polish group. When he really made his breakthrough was as a defensive midfielder in Serie A in Italy before Arsenal bought him. He’s a good centre-back. When he made his breakthrough at Arsenal, it was coming in for William Saliba alongside Gabriel.

"To score your debut goal as a winner against Germany, he'll be a legend forever"

“He can play in midfield because he’s very skilled technically. He’s good in possession, he’s able to pass and keep the ball. Poland play a back three at the moment. He made his breakthrough with the national team at the last World Cup as a starter, playing all the matches, getting through the group stage and only losing to France in the knockouts, which is no disgrace.

“He started both matches and is one of the few players to play all of the two warm-up matches on Friday against Ukraine and on Monday against Turkey. That shows his importance in the setup and he’s one of the younger players at the age of 24, but has very much established himself.

“The progress he’s made since joining Arsenal is really clear. He scored his first goal for Poland last year and will be a legend in the international team forever because it was the only goal of the game against Germany. Polish victories against Germany you can count on the fingers of one hand without getting to your thumb. They’re very precious and memorable. To score your debut goal for your country as a winning goal against Germany, if he did nothing else he’d be remembered for that.

“One of the highlights of the match against Turkey on Monday was this incredible duel between Kiwior and Arda Guler, the right winger for Real Madrid. They think he may be a starter for Real next season instead of Rodrygo on the right side. When he came on at half-time, he was running at Kiwior and they had a fantastic duel - two very good young players. Guler would go past him, Kiwior would get back at him and stop him and ultimately Poland stopped Turkey and Kiwior got a lot of plaudits despite being put under huge pressure for doing really well in a very classic repeated one-on-one duel.

“He is absolutely going to be starting for Poland. The time I saw him buzzing this season more than at any other stage was in the away match at Manchester City, which came just after Poland won the play-offs. They came through on penalties against Wales in Cardiff and Jakub started against Man City and the smile on his face was great. In that Arsenal dressing room, if every other player is pretty much playing in the Euros, you don’t want to be the one who is missing out or on holiday this time of year.

"Jakub is very modest, grounded and down to earth. He lives for football to do the best he can with his career. He's such a nice lad and it's such a big thing for him to be in this squad matching up to the level of players he's got around him."

The mood in Poland going into Euros

“In the last warm-up match, the worst disaster happened as Robert Lewandowski picked up an injury. It’s already been confirmed that he’s out of the first match and almost certainly out of the second match. It would even be touch-and-go for the third group game. The expectation was that he may retire from playing for Poland after this tournament, it’s likely to be his last Euros. He’s Poland’s one standout player, the captain and to see him in the Polish shirt with the white eagle on the chest, at the age of 35, every opportunity is special.

“The other big figure is Szczesny at the other end, but Lewandowski is the one player you wouldn’t want to lose.”

Szczesny

A successful tournament for Poland

“Getting through to the knockout stages. It’s going to be really hard to get out of the group. Holland, Austria and France are good teams. You need a minimum of three points, maybe four to get through in third place, but to see where they’re coming from is really hard. If France beat Austria and Holland and then play some of their reserve players against Poland, even then they are still very dangerous.

“Austria are a really good team. Poland really fear them. They’re a relatively nearby country with close links. Interaction between the countries has always been strong, but Austria with their hard running, physical, ferocious pressing led by Marcel Sabitzer means they’re going to be tough. Marko Arnautovic is a complete maverick who could do something.

“Poland really need to get a result against Holland in the opening game in Hamburg. It’s going to be so hard because they were setting up to play to Lewandowski’s strengths. One positive is that, since the coach Michal Probierz has come in, he’s unbeaten."

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