Kuszczak hopeful of Poland progress

Wednesday 30 November 2022 10:57

After group stage exits at the last two major international tournaments, safe navigation from Group C would represent a big success for Poland at this year’s World Cup, according to former Reds goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.

Saudi Arabia’s matchday one upset of Argentina – widely predicted to stroll into the knockout stages and tipped by many as tournament favourites – threw the group wide open and going into the final round of fixtures in Group C, Poland sit top of the table with a crunch tie to come against Argentina on Wednesday evening.

Kuszczak, who collected 11 caps for his country and remains the only Polish player to represent United’s first team, is hopeful of progression, despite the challenge they face in the final group game.

Kuszczak celebrates with the European Cup in 2008.

“In the last few years Poland have had opportunities to play in tournaments like the European Championship in 2021 and the World Cup in 2018,” Tomasz told ManUtd.com, “but our experiences have ended at the group stage, so we would love to get out of the group this time for a change! Doing so would be a huge success for us.

“Football is the main sport in Poland and the fortunes of the national team is a key factor for supporters in our country, so to be at the World Cup is huge. There’s a lot of expectation, as usual, but also recognition that we’ve got a tough group.

“The players are very optimistic and focused on football, and I think some of the talking points around the tournament have contributed to that.

“The atmosphere regarding the tournament host, all the speculation regarding how the tournament will go for the fans, it has taken a lot of pressure off the shoulders of the players because the press are focusing equally on these important factors as well, rather than just the football.”

Team talisman Robert Lewandowski had a penalty saved by Guillermo Ochoa in Poland’s opening game draw with Mexico but the Barcelona striker netted his first-ever World Cup finals goal in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

However, Kuszczak insists that his country’s hopes don’t just rest on the form of their renowned attacking spearhead.

“Poland have a few players who have valuable experience at the top level,” says the now-retired 40-year-old. “Obviously, we have Robert Lewandowski, which is a key factor for us and has been for many years now. With him in the team, he can always decide a game at any time and we’re going to play for that, but there are others who deserve attention too.

“Piotr Zielinski has been playing very well with Napoli, as have Wojciech Szczesny and Arkadiusz Milik at Juventus. Matty Cash, who people will know from playing at Aston Villa, is doing very well for a young player, while there are also a few other young players progressing in European leagues like the Eredivisie and the Bundesliga.

Tomasz Kuszczak - "I risked everything for my United dream‪"‬


This week on UTD Podcast we speak to former Manchester United and Poland goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak. Tomasz talks us through his journey to Old Trafford, which involved rejecting a contract at Hertha Berlin in pursuit of a Premier League team. He also opened up on his working relationship with United legend Edwin van der Sar and the rumours of bad blood between the two keepers.

“The strength of the team is that is has a lot of experience in it, particularly down the middle of the team, and we’re going to look to build around that spine of top players, which will mean Szczesny in goal, Kamil Glik – who played a lot for Monaco – in the centre of defence, then Zielinski in the middle of the park and Lewandowski upfront. They’ve got good players around them and this team definitely has the potential to compete.

“Everybody was very excited to see how the Mexico game would go, now everything is in the balance. Of course, Argentina are very strong. They have top players and in my opinion they are one of the best national teams in the world, so our third group game will be very tough, but having done the job against Saudi Arabia, there is a good chance that we can set out what we are aiming to do and go to the next stage.”

The permutations In Group C mean that no-one is guaranteed qualification to the knockout stages yet. Poland only need a draw in their final game, while Lisandro Martinez’s Argentina will go through if they beat the Poles. Saudi Arabia are guaranteed a place in the knockout stages if they beat Mexico, and if both games are drawn, Argentina and Poland will progress.

For Mexico, they need to beat the Saudis and hope Poland beat Argentina.