Arsenal keeper Szczesny insists co-hosts have players to pull off a shock victory


Wojciech Szczesny believes Poland can spring a major surprise on the continent’s football elite and win Euro 2012, which kicks-off this evening with the opening game of the tournament between the co-hosts and Greece in Warsaw.

“I’ll be drinking champagne in Kiev. My ambition is to win the European Championship,” declared the Arsenal goalkeeper when asked about what he will be doing at the end of the competition on July 1.

“Anything can happen. I don’t see any reason why we can’t follow the example of Greece in 2004. Or Denmark in 1992, when they didn’t even initially qualify for the finals but went on to win it.

“If you were to look at it realistically, then we have got no chance whatsoever to become champions of Europe. But it’s just that by no means do these things always turn out as predicted.”

Any doubts Szczesny may have about Poland’s chances in Euro 2012 have been kept remarkably well hidden during the build-up to this evening’s match, as he has exuded the confidence Gunners fans have become used to.

Not even febrile local talk this week about the game at the new National Stadium on the banks of the River Vistula being the biggest in the history of Polish football has fazed the national side’s most popular player.

Nor would he admit to any worries about the prospect of finally making his competitive debut for Poland on such a big occasion. Having qualified automatically for Euro 2012 as hosts, his first 10 games for the national team have all been friendlies.

Szczesny feels he benefited enormously as an 18-year-old from being part of the squad preparing for Euro 2008, although in the end he did not take part in the tournament four years ago, where Poland failed to win a match.

He believes the Polish team have made vast improvements over the last couple of years, to the point where he believes they should not be dismissed as contenders, despite a world ranking of 62, which is lower than any of the other nations at Euro 2012.

“At previous big tournaments, in fact all those we’ve participated in during the 21st century, we’ve lacked players performing at the highest level for Europe’s biggest clubs. That’s no longer the case. No one can tell me that Borussia Dortmund isn’t one of Europe’s top sides, and three Polish players have been key to their recent successes. With such gifted individuals we have the chance to achieve something more than our predecessors did.

“And it’s not just the boys from Borussia. I haven’t watched much of the Polish League in recent times and I didn’t realise that we had so many talented players at the moment.”

Szczesny dismisses his portrayal as the poster boy of the Poland team, even with his picture appearing on many of the front pages around Warsaw this week. For him, Robert Lewandowski is crucial.

The Dortmund striker was the player of the year in the Bundesliga this season as he helped his club to the title and then scored a hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the German Cup final to secure the double. Without him, Poland struggle to score.

In contrast, Szczesny downplays his own contribution. “I have to simply catch every ball flying in my direction,” he said. “And that’s all I’m concentrating on. Looking at it objectively, my work isn’t very complicated.”

If he does it well in his first high-profile major tournament, then Arsenal can expect to have the continent’s biggest clubs seeking to tempt Szczesny away from north London. But Gunners supporters should have no fears.

“In a very short time, a great deal has changed for me very quickly. And it’s Arsenal I have to thank for that. I owe the most enormous debt to the club for giving me the chance to build a notable career in the game. I can’t imagine myself playing for another club.

“Arsenal, and especially the reserve-team goalkeeping coach, Tony Roberts, have formed me as a footballer. He might not be very well known but, when I finish my career, Tony will be among those people whom I will be most grateful to.”

In addition to a real love of his club, the Polish goalkeeper also adores his adopted city, stating: “There is no better place to live than London. I’ve hit on a city whose life is just amazing.

“I’m 22 years old, I’ve already seen a good few interesting places, but nothing matches up to London. It’s different. You can find a niche if you’re seeking a peaceful life, or another if you’re looking for excitement. There is something for everyone. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

However, if Szczesny and Poland do well at Euro 2012, his popularity among his fellow Poles may rise to the point where they won’t want to let him leave Warsaw again.

Why Gunners No1 rates the ‘Dortmund three’ so highly

Robert Lewandowski

The club’s top scorer is one of Europe’s most promising strikers. Intelligent movement added to a physical presence means he can cause problems for any defender. Scored 22 goals in Bundesliga this season.

Jakub Blaszczykowski

The Poland captain is a tenacious right winger with an eye for goal. Always leading by example, he covers every blade of grass and, though yet to score for his country, netted 11 goals last term.

Lukasz Piszczek

A steady performer at full-back, Piszczek offers a dangerous offensive threat to boot. Defensively sound, his tireless running and accurate crossing have led to interest from Spanish champions Real Madrid. By Giuseppe Muro


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