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England v Poland: The history

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Anything less than a win on Tuesday evening at Wembley will almost certainly mean the Three Lions will be forced into a two-legged play off to secure a place on board a flight to Brazil this coming summer.

With Ukraine, who are one point behind England in Group H, playing minnows San Marino nothing less than a win against Poland's Białe-Orły will suffice.

These are two footballing nations with a proud history which has at time intertwined. Poland have the chance to stop England qualifying for a World Cup for the second time in their history.

In 1973, with Poland needing only a draw to qualify and England needing a win, the heroics of goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski stopped Sir Alf Ramsey's Lions from going to West Germany the following summer. It was a result that shook the footballing world; Bobby Moore having lifted the Jules Rimet trophy on the hallowed turf only seven years previously.

After that fateful game in '73 Old Big 'Ead Brian Clough famously called the Polish 'keeper Tomaszewski 'a clown'. It's something that with Tomaszewski not just throughout his career, but throughout his life. 'Tomek' pulled off save after save after save to deny England. What made this all the more remarkable was that the Pole played eighty-seven minutes of the match with a broken fingers thanks to an Allan Clarke stamp early on.

'The Man Who Stopped England', as he's now known, went onto become the first goalkeeper to save two penalties in a World Cup, as Poland finished third in West Germany. This was the best Polish team of all-time featuring greats, such as Grzegorz Lato and Kazimierz Deyna.

'Tomek', now a controversial figure in his native Poland, became an elected politician in 2011 for the city of Łódź. In retrospect, to be eliminated by so fine a side as Poland's in the mid-70's seems no disgrace at all.

England and Poland's first ever match finished in a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park in January 1966. Since then, Poland have only won once, England winning ten and drawing seven between them.

At the World Cup in Mexico '86, a Gary Lineker hat-trick sunk Poland in another win or bust match for the Three Lions against a side which contained perhaps the greatest Polish player ever, Zbigniew Boniek. Poland were beaten 4-0 in the next round by Brazil, while England were famously cheated out the World Cup by Diego Maradona's Hand of God goal, who eventually lifted the trophy.

England defeated Poland home and away qualifying for France '98 thanks to three Alan Shearer goals over both matches, with England progressing and the Białe-Orły not.

Qualification for Euro 2000 pitted England and Poland together once more and it proved far less simple for the Three Lions. With Sweden dominating the group and having already qualified, there was a play off place available for England and Poland to fight for.

With one game to go both teams were on twelve points, but Poland had a game in hand. The two sides met in Warsaw, with England desperate for a win. The game finished 0-0 in a horribly tense and scrappy affair, with David Batty getting sent off in the closing minutes as England feared the worst. Poland only needed a point in their final game away to Sweden, in Stockholm to eliminate England.

I remember to this day watching the Sweden vs Poland game feeling completely helpless and praying for a Sweden victory. The Swedes duly delivered, winning 2-0, sending England to the European Championships.

Fast forward to the present day and this fixture has even more meaning and spice. With there being a huge Polish population in the United Kingdom today (nearly 750,000 Polish nationals), this has the feeling of a derby game. There is expected to be around 25,000 fans of the Białe-Orły at Wembley on Tuesday evening, the atmosphere will be one to savour. I hope all fans behave come kick-off, but if the result doesn't turn out the way some England fans want, then potential animosity between communities could arise. I'm praying for an England win.

Ahead of this match, Poland's danger men have to be Borussia Dortmund duo Robert Lewandowski and Kuba Błaszczykowski. Kuba's pace down the flanks could cause England problems, while Lewandowski in the middle can cause any defence major issues.

One to watch out for off the bench is highly rated Udinese youngster Piotr Zieliński. At only 19, Zieliński is likely to be the youngest player at Wembley should he play, but has scored three goals in five caps for his country.

Can Roy's Lions get the win we so desperately need?

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Topics:
World Cup
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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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