Poland is back at the World Cup, and its superstar striker is a big reason why.
The team faced a win-or-go-home UEFA World Cup playoff against Sweden in March with a ticket to Qatar on the line. After a scoreless first half, Robert Lewandowski put Poland on the board with a penalty kick in the 49th minute. Piotr Zieliński padded Poland’s lead in the 72nd minute and the team secured a World Cup berth with a 2-0 victory.
Getting to the World Cup is something Lewandowski and Co. have done before. Succeeding on soccer’s biggest stage has been more of a mixed bag.
The Polish national team made a couple of runs at World Cup glory nearly a half-century ago. The White and Red’s three most recent trips have all ended in three games, though, and they will need to work to get past the group stage at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Poland opens its World Cup slate with a Group C match against Mexico before facing Saudi Arabia and later concluding group play against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
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Before Lewandowski and Co. embark on their next World Cup quest, here’s a deep dive into Poland’s history in the tournament.
Poland World Cup appearances
Poland is making its ninth World Cup appearance in Qatar.
The country first reached the tournament in 1938 in France. After that, the team did not return to the biggest international soccer event for 36 years.
Poland’s history on the pitch reversed course when the nation made four straight World Cups starting in 1974. It proceeded to miss all three World Cups in the 1990s before making consecutive appearances in 2002 and 2006. The team missed out on the 2010 and 2014 competitions before returning for the 2018 event in Russia.
What is Poland’s best World Cup result?
Poland has two third-place finishes in World Cup history that came to an end against the eventual champions.
The team’s first third-place run came at the 1974 event, just the second World Cup appearance in the nation’s history. Poland won its first five matches before falling to West Germany in the final match of the second group stage. West Germany proceeded to lift the World Cup trophy on home soil, while Poland edged Brazil in the third-place match.
Poland made its second ever semifinals appearance eight years later in Spain. The team’s semifinal opponent was Italy, a team they tied in a scoreless match during group play. Italy pulled off a 2-0 semifinal victory before handling West Germany in the 1982 cup final. Poland settled for third place once again with a 3-2 win over France.
Poland all-time World Cup results
Poland is 16-5-13 all-time in World Cup matches and 2-0-1 against its 2022 Group C opponents.
Poland has not advanced past the group stage since 1986. It has one win in each of its last four World Cup appearances, including a 3-1 victory over the U.S. men’s national team in 2002.
Here’s a match-by-match look at every result in Poland’s World Cup history:
- Round of 16: Brazil 6, Poland 5 (ET)
- First group stage: Poland 3, Argentina 2
- First group stage: Poland 7, Haiti 0
- First group stage: Poland 2, Italy 1
- Second group stage: Poland 1, Sweden 0
- Second group stage: Poland 2, Yugoslavia 1
- Second group stage: West Germany 1, Poland 0
- Third place match: Poland 1, Brazil 0
- First group stage: Poland 0, West Germany 0
- First group stage: Poland 1, Tunisia 0
- First group stage: Poland 3, Mexico 1
- Second group stage: Argentina 2, Poland 0
- Second group stage: Poland 1, Peru 0
- Second group stage: Brazil 3, Poland 1
- First group stage: Poland 0, Italy 0
- First group stage: Poland 0, Cameroon 0
- First group stage: Poland 5, Peru 1
- Second group stage: Poland 3, Belgium 0
- Second group stage: Poland 0, Soviet Union 0
- Semifinals: Italy 2, Poland 0
- Third place match: Poland 3, France 2
- Group play: Poland 0, Morocco 0
- Group play: Poland 1, Portugal 0
- Group play: England 3, Poland 0
- Round of 16: Brazil 4, Poland 0
- Group play: South Korea 2, Poland 0
- Group play: Portugal 4, Poland 0
- Group play: Poland 3, United States 1
- Group play: Ecuador 2, Poland 0
- Group play: Germany 1, Poland 0
- Group play: Poland 2, Costa Rica 1
- Group play: Senegal 2, Poland 1
- Group play: Colombia 3, Poland 0
- Group play: Poland 1, Japan 0
Which player has the most appearances for Poland in World Cup history?
Władysław Żmuda was there throughout Poland’s greatest World Cup stretch.
The defender is the only Polish player to appear in four World Cups, stepping on the field in 1974, 1978, 1982 and 1986. He also holds the country’s record with 21 World Cup matches under his belt.
After Żmuda, Grzegorz Lato (20) and Zbigniew Boniek (16) have played the next-most World Cup caps for Poland.
Which player has the most goals for Poland in World Cup history?
Lato leads the pack when it comes to scoring for Poland at the World Cup with 10 goals. He is the only Polish player to lead a World Cup in goals, notching seven in the 1974 tournament.
Andrzej Szarmach is next on the list, both in terms of World Cup goals for Poland and overall goals in the 1974 event. He scored seven across his three tournaments and five in 1974, which tied the Netherland’s Johan Neeskens for second at the competition.
Robert Lewandowski’s stats with Poland
Żmuda and Lato may hold the country’s World Cup record holders, but Poland will be led by its best ever player in Qatar.
Lewandowski first debuted for the Polish national team in 2008 and has since blown past records for all-time caps (134) and goals (76). He’s one of the top strikers on Earth, finishing second in the 2021 Ballon d’Or race behind Messi.
Despite his club and international success, Lewandowski’s World Cup career has been forgettable to this point. He made his first appearance with Poland in 2018 and was held scoreless as his team was eliminated after just three group play matches.
The 33-year-old, who joined F.C. Barcelona this summer after spending eight years with Bayern Munich, is still at the top of his game heading into the 2022 World Cup. He scored nine goals in nine qualifying matches for Poland to help the nation secure its berth in Qatar.
What do Poland’s World Cup kits look like?
Poland has a simple flag, and its soccer uniforms reflect that.
The club plays in a home white jersey and red away jersey. The pattern of the jersey has changed every couple years, but it is a traditional look that dates back over a century.
In 2022, the white jersey will feature a pattern on the sleeves, while the away jersey is solid red with a red and white trim on the sleeves and neckline. Both jerseys also feature a crest with the coat of arms of Poland.
Poland has had a number of suppliers since the club was founded. It has been partnered with Nike since 2009.