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Moment of Truth

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 25th 2024)

The Sack Race?

It’s winner takes all tomorrow night at Cardiff City Stadium. Both Cymru and Poland know that a win will take them to Germany’s Euro2024, but the losing coach knows that the sack is the likely consequence. Former midfielder, Michał Probierz, was appointed coach of Poland last year. Since Jerzy Brzęczek was sacked after almost two-and-a-half years in charge in January 2021, Poland have gone through three coaches before Probierz – Paulo Carvalho de Sousa, Czesław Michniewicz and the first coach to win a major trophy for Portugal, Fernando Fernandes da Costa Santos. In September 2023 Santos was sacked by Poland – he took over at Beşiktaş in January this year.

Probierz knows that failure to reach the Euros could cost him his job, so does Cymru boss Rob Page, but neither are contemplating defeat. Both have studied the opposition, but are concentrating on their team’s strengths.

The End of the Transitional Period?

It could have been a battle of greats, but Wales’s leading scorer, record caps holder, and one of if not the greatest player they ever produced, Gareth Bale retired from football at the start of qualifiers for Euro2024.

Rob Page

Page waxed lyrical about him, but recognises that this is the test of the transition that he has been guiding Wales through. He has a young team, but one that is strangely experienced in its way. Leeds United’s captain, Ethan Ampadu is only 23 years-old, yet last Thursday, he became the youngest Welshman to reach 50 caps, breaking Bale’s record. But Bale is a hard player to do without.

“We had one of the world’s best footballers and it shows how far we’ve come in a short space of time,” Page said. “We’re only one tournament past Gareth’s retirement and one win away from qualifying.

“If we can be there or thereabouts at the end of the qualifying campaign, while we’re still in this transition of introducing young players without some of the world-class senior players we’ve had, then we’re in a good place. It shows the strength in depth and quality we’ve got coming through.”


While Bale has hung up his boots, Poland’s veteran talisman is still leading the line and his country aged 35. By his own very high standards Robert Lewandowski has had a poor season so far with Barçelona.

Page is under no illusions that Lewandowski’s class is permanent, even if his form has taken a dip recently.

“Lewandowski is a fantastic player, we’ll respect that, of course. But it stops there. We’ve done some analysis on him and shown the defenders what he’s capable of doing. But it’s about us imposing ourselves on them. We know Poland have an abundance of quality. They’ve a new manager. They’ve had some positive results. But it’s about the best we can play. If we do that the result takes care of itself.”

Incredibly, the question of whether Probierz is concerned about Lewandowski’s form in Spain has never been raised.

Michał Probierz

“Poland have some individuals but, collectively, as a team, we’re more than capable of giving a level of performance to get the job done,” said Page, and they are formidable at home, being unbeaten in 20 of their last 23 matches.

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