Warsaw stadium still causing problems for Poland

February 16, 2012, Thursday/ 00:00:00

The most momentous year in Polish soccer history should kick off with a friendly against Portugal at the new national stadium in Warsaw on Feb.29 - but there are doubts the match can take place there because of ongoing problems.    

On Tuesday, continuing troubles forced the stadium manager to step down - less than four months before the $641 million stadium is due to stage the opening match of the European Championship between Poland and Greece.     

There is also continuing criticism of Poland's newly-appointed 35-year-old Sports Minister Joanna Mucha, who is constantly at loggerheads with hardliners from Poland's Football Association (PZPN).     

Meanwhile national coach Franciszek Smuda on Wednesday named his squad for the Portugal game, saying he hoped that the match can take place in the capital.      

Warsaw is due to stage the opening match and four other games in Euro 2012 including the second semi-final.      

The Olympic Stadium in Kiev, the main venue in Ukraine which is co-hosting the event with Poland, is already operational. The final will be held there on July 1.     

Asked what would happen if he could not lead the team out in the capital, Smuda told reporters: "We will play in Wroclaw, but I would prefer to play in Warsaw, finally."     

While the political infighting and problems with the stadium are going on, Smuda's main concern is to produce a team which can bring a smile to the faces of fans who have not had a lot to celebrate since Poland reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1982.     

A mixed bag of results in their preparatory friendlies was highlighted by a 2-1 win over Argentina last year.     

"This is our last test against such a strong opponent ahead of the Euros," Smuda said, adding that his squad for the Portugal game would be more or less the one he will employ in June.     

"One could say its 90, 95 or 99.9 percent.      

"It's hard to say exactly now as every week injuries happen and somebody falls out of the game. But over the last two years I have achieved my goal, I know who to focus on, my first eleven is in place."     

Borussia Dortmund's Polish trio of Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski are all included while both of Arsenal's goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski are named in a 22-man squad.     

Although he can include a third goalkeeper for Euro 2012, Manchester United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak is not named for this match. Of the 22, 17 are based overseas.     

Asked to comment on Mucha's performance nearly 100 days after she was sworn in, Smuda said: "Well, Minister Mucha is a pretty woman, that's for sure, and will do anything to work things out.     

"I'm sure she will become a very good sports minister."     

Polish squad:     

Goalkeepers:Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal), Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal)     

Defenders: Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund),Marcin Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Damien Perquis (Sochaux), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Legia Warsaw), Marcin Kaminski (Lech Poznan), Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (Lech Poznan), Tomasz Jodlowiec (Polonia Warsaw), Sebastian Boenisch (Werder Bremen)     

Midfielders: Eugen Polanski (Mainz), Dariusz Dudka (Auxerre), Adam Matuszczyk (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor), Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Ludovic Obraniak (Girondins Bordeaux), Sebastian Mila (Slask Wroclaw), Maciej Rybus (Terek Grozny), Slawomir Peszko (Cologne), Kamil Grosicki (Sivasspor)     

Strikers: Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund), Ireneusz Jelen (Lille)          

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