England: The three key clashes ahead of World Cup qualifier with Poland at Wembley


Harry Kane will relish a match-up with Southampton’s Jan Bednarek, while Paulo Sousa’s insistence on a high line may leave Poland vulnerable to the counter… the three key clashes in England’s World Cup qualifier

  • England are looking to make it a clean sweep of victories as they take on Poland 
  • The Three Lions have comfortably seen off San Marino and Albania this month 
  • However, the Poles are expected to pose a real test for Gareth Southgate’s side 
  • Here, Sportsmail picks out the three key battles and the lowdown on Poland 

England enter Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier with Poland on the brink of a clean sweep this international break, having swept aside San Marino and Albania with seven goals scored and none conceded.

However, Poland are unlikely to roll over at Wembley, even without marksman Robert Lewandowski available. The Poles comfortably swept aside Andorra 3-0 in their last outing and will be eager to impress new boss Paulo Sousa heading into this summer’s Euros.

Here, Sportsmail’s NATHAN SALT picks out the three key battles expected for the Wembley clash and provides the lowdown on Wednesday night’s visitors. 

England are looking to make it three wins from three when they host Poland on Wednesday

England are looking to make it three wins from three when they host Poland on Wednesday

Harry Kane v Jan Bednarek

Not a match-up the Southampton defender will relish. 

Kane toyed with him in Tottenham’s 5-2 win at St Mary’s in the Premier League earlier this season and will fancy his chances again at Wembley. 

Hungary’s Adam Szalai caused Bednarek, 24, real problems when running in behind last week — and the centre back looked vulnerable at set-pieces. Rested against Andorra, Bednarek appears a likely starter against England.

Harry Kane will be relishing a match-up with Southampton defender Jan Bednarek at Wembley

Harry Kane will be relishing a match-up with Southampton defender Jan Bednarek at Wembley

John Stones v Arkadiusz Milik

The Manchester City defender may be relieved that Poland talisman Robert Lewandowski is out but Milik is no pushover if he slots into a front two in the Bayern Munich striker’s place. 

Milik, 27, is a physical presence and will look to rough up Stones early to see what sort of duel he has on his hands. The Marseille striker is certainly battle-tested and more than capable of dominating this contest.

Man City defender Jon Stones has enjoyed a superb season but will be tested by his Polish opponent

Arkadiusz Milik is battle-tested and capable of dominating

Jon Stones (L) may not face Robert Lewandowski, but will have to deal with Arkadiusz Milik (R)

Raheem Sterling v Sebastian Szymanski

A midfielder by trade at Dynamo Moscow — and Szymanski showed it time and time again as he was caught out defensively in the 3-3 draw in Budapest last week.

Deployed at right wing-back by Poland boss Paulo Sousa, Hungary had acres of space behind Szymanski, 21, to exploit. 

If Manchester City winger Sterling, who started wide on the left for England against San Marino, feels in the mood and gets the right service, he may not believe his luck.

Raheem Sterling will look to exploit Sebastian Szymanski who has played out of position

Raheem Sterling will look to exploit Sebastian Szymanski who has played out of position

Poland scouting report 

Strengths 

New boss Paulo Sousa wants his side to dominate possession.

Only twice in the six Nations League games before he arrived did Poland come out on top in that area and it was immediately clear against Hungary last week how he is changing the way they play.

Poland's new boss Paulo Sousa has looked to implement his style of play from the off

Poland’s new boss Paulo Sousa has looked to implement his style of play from the off 

Sousa’s players are being urged to pass out from the back, with Brighton’s Jakub Moder standing out in the 3-3 draw in Budapest by shuttling between the boxes.

Even without Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik and Krzysztof Piatek give Sousa an attack that can bail out a defence that still needs work. 

Weaknesses 

Although little could be learned from the stroll against Andorra, in the clash with Hungary Sousa wanted his defence to maintain a high line — so high at times that every player bar keeper Wojciech Szczesny was in the opposition half. 

Hungary had 35 per cent possession in Budapest, made almost half as many passes and yet finished with three goals, the first of which came from taking advantage of that high line.

However, the Poles' use of a high line was exploited by Hungary and is a point of vulnerability

However, the Poles’ use of a high line was exploited by Hungary and is a point of vulnerability

It is likely Sousa will tweak these tactics before facing England but if he doesn’t then the match will be won and lost on the wings. 

Barnsley’s Michal Helik was a surprise starter in defence ahead of Kamil Glik and he did not look comfortable alongside Southampton’s Jan Bednarek. England can punish them here.

The manager 

Former QPR, Swansea and Leicester boss Sousa, 50, has been darting about the training pitch aware he has limited time to get his ideas across. ‘We started a new process just a few days ago,’ he said. ‘We must not interrupt it.’ 

FIVE CLASSIC ENCOUNTERS

1974 World Cup qualifier October 17, 1973, Wembley

England 1 Poland 1 

England had to win their final qualifier to reach the 1974 World Cup. But Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski — called a ‘clown’ by Brian Clough before the game — made a string of brilliant saves to deny them a place at the tournament, costing Sir Alf Ramsey his job.

1986 World Cup group stage June 11, 1986, Monterrey, Mexico 

England 3 Poland 0 

Bobby Robson’s side entered their final group game under enormous pressure, having lost to Portugal and drawn with Morocco, but Gary Lineker’s first-half hat-trick sent England through.

Euro 2000 qualifier March 27, 1999, Wembley 

England 3 Poland 1 

A Paul Scholes hat-trick got Kevin Keegan’s reign as England manager off to the perfect start but they couldn’t kick on and ended up in the play-offs — where they edged out Scotland.

2014 World Cup qualifier Oct 17, 2012, Warsaw 

Poland 1 England 1 

This game was called off minutes before kick-off and postponed by 24 hours due to a waterlogged pitch. When it finally got under way Wayne Rooney scored his 32nd England goal before Kamil Glik equalised with 20 minutes left.

2014 World cup qualifier Oct 15, 2013, Wembley 

England 2 Poland 0

Roy Hodgson’s side had to win their final qualifier to reach the World Cup. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring with a first-half header and captain Steven Gerrard struck late on to send England to Brazil.

 

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