Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz denied Mexico was the favourite in its World Cup Group C opener on Tuesday, saying all the teams at the tournament fully deserved to be there.
Poland, playing in its ninth World Cup, has not made it past the group stage since 1986 and will face Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Argentina in a bid to reach the knockout stages in Qatar.
“If I say that there are no logical reasons for Poland to make it out of the group, you will say that I am a man of little faith,” Michniewicz told reporters on Monday.
“I think that we can get out of the group. ... We don’t want to be among the first 16 teams to go home. We have experienced players who have played in many tournaments, and there are a lot of youngsters who are just learning the big tournaments here in Qatar. I think this mix is right for us.”
Asked whether Mexico was the favourite, given the last time it failed to make it to the knockout stage was back in 1978, Michniewicz disagreed. “We don’t look at Mexico this way. I don’t see such disparities between us, also between us and Saudi Arabia or Argentina,” he said.
“We are all at the World Cup, we feel as important as our opponents in the group. We don’t give them any special rank.”
Mexico, however, has a strong record in its World Cup openers, winning five and drawing one in its last six tournaments. The last time Poland won its opening World Cup game was nearly 50 years ago, when it beat Argentina 3-2 in 1974 and went on to take third place after beating Brazil 1-0. “The first match is crucial. But I also don’t hide the fact that we’re adding zero points to our account ahead of the third match - meaning (the game against Argentina) will definitely be lost,” goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said.
“I hope that tomorrow we catch a good rhythm and then the music will lead us further. We only had three days from arrival to prepare the match, we joked amongst ourselves that we didn’t have time to mess things up,” he joked.
“It’s definitely the last World Cup for me, I think for a couple of other guys too, so it would be nice to experience this event with something we could call a success.”
Another big name likely performing for the last time on world football’s biggest stage is Robert Lewandowski. The prolific Poland striker is playing in his second World Cup - Poland did not qualify in 2010 and 2014 - but has never scored a goal at the tournament.
“It is important for him (to score), and I can see that he’s very motivated,” Szczesny said. “I believe that one day, Robert’s great performance in Qatar will also be talked about.”