Football fever grips Poland as World Cup kicks off
Football fever gripped Poland as the World Cup was set to kick off in Russia on Thursday.
With the Polish national squad already at their World Cup training base in Russia, fans were hoping the Poles would stay there as long as possible — long enough to make their mark in the tournament after years of underachievement.
The World Cup was on Thursday due to open with a match between the host nation and Saudi Arabia at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium.
Poland will take on Senegal, Colombia and Japan in the group stage of the tournament.
The Poles are scheduled to open their campaign against Senegal at Moscow's Spartak stadium on June 19.
Manager Adam Nawałka's men will next take on Colombia in Kazan on June 24 and play Japan in Volgograd four days later.
The Poles landed in Russia, after being seen off by crowds of fans at Warsaw’s Chopin Airport, and headed for their training base in the southern Russian resort of Sochi.
The Polish team on Tuesday notched up a comfortable 4-0 victory against Lithuania in their last friendly fixture ahead of the World Cup.
FIFA’s No. 8
With the 2018 World Cup only hours away, Poland were at No. 8 in the latest ranking by the world football governing body FIFA.
World champions Germany were No. 1 in the ranking, followed by Brazil and Belgium.
Colombia was in 16th place in the latest FIFA ranking. Senegal was 27th, and Japan ranked No. 61.
Nawałka’s men led by Lewandowski
Star striker Robert Lewandowski, Poland's all-time top scorer, bagged a remarkable 16 goals from 10 games in his team’s World Cup qualifying campaign, setting a European qualifying record.
Meanwhile, Nawałka is the first Poland manager to have taken the national squad to both the European championships and the World Cup.
Poland made it through to the quarterfinals of the Euro 2016 championships in France, losing to Portugal on penalties.
Their last World Cup appearance was in Germany in 2006, when they did not get past the group stage.
Poland finished third in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany and were also third in Spain in 1982.
Teams from 32 nations will play a total of 64 matches at 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities during this year's World Cup, which will run until July 15.