As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. With 13 days to the big kick-off, it is the turn of Poland.


The aim of this reader is that you’ll sit on the couch watching RTÉ2 in mid-June, muttering Polska Bialo-Czerwoni, wondering where life has gone since those wonderful days of Euro 2012.

The Poznan square, the beaches of Sopot, mixed with trying to convince yourself that Gdańsk did indeed rhyme with craic. It’s all a wonderful memory mixed with painful defeats.

It set about a bond among the nations that resulted into two dull international friendlies that was followed by qualification matches that left us to rue the name Robert Lewandowski.

The relationship will be renewed in a Wrocław friendly in September; we might as well get used to the players again.

The Polish have one of the more exotic groups; Senegal, Japan and Colombia join them in H – a draw that many will look at as a favourable one – with the key game against the South American side in their opener.

Lewandowski has yet to play at a World Cup so it is nice he gets to this stage at last. His record of 151 goals in 195 games is quite amazing, but the end to the club season will leave him even more eager to show his wonderful talents.

Having not qualified for the last two World Cups, it is a great lift for football in the country and in 2002 and 2006, they didn’t get out of the group stage, so expectations shouldn’t be at a huge level.

President Andrzej Duda met the team this week to wish them well, but it wasn’t just that.

He thanked the squad for "wonderful emotions" during the qualifying campaign and said that fans were "now counting on more."

He added: "You will be fighting it out on the pitch, while we will be fighting all kinds of emotions in front of television sets."

It really is a case of give it a lash for manager Adam Nawalka.

They will almost certainly face one of England and Belgium in the last 16 if they progress so it’s not going to be easy if they get through the group, but we will all be watching on cheering our Polish friends.

Goalkeepers: Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus).

Defenders: Jan Bednarek (Southampton), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Thiago Cionek (SPAL), Kamil Glik (Monaco), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund).

Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Wolfsburg), Jacek Goralski (Ludogorets Razgrad), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Paris St-Germain), Rafal Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze), Karol Linetty (Sampdoria), Slawomir Peszko (Lechnia Gdansk), Maciej Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli).

Forwards: Dawid Kownacki (Sampdoria), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli), Lukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht).

You can follow the FIFA World Cup from 14 June with RTÉ. Live blogs of every game on RTÉ.ie and the News Now App, with 56 games live on RTÉ television and all 64 games available on the RTÉ Player.