With Roy Hodgson’s crucial and final World Cup qualifier at Wembley less than 24 hours away, we look back at some of the classic England-Poland clashes of the past, good and bad from an English perspective. Starting with that infamous meeting at Wembley 40 years ago.
ENGLAND 1 POLAND 1 – Wembley, October 17, 1973
Those of a certain age will never forget that tortuous night at Wembley Stadium when England battered the Poles to a pulp; only to be denied by one man. That man, famously described by Brian Clough as ‘a clown’, was Jan Tomaszewski who threw every part of his body in the way of an incessant England barrage which amounted to 35 shots on goal. Only one effort went past the Polish hero, an Allan Clarke penalty, as England failed to find the winner they needed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup finals. Jan Domarski was on target for Poland – with a helping hand from Peter Shilton – and England almost found an unlikely hero of their own in the shape of Derby’s Kevin Hector who came off the bench with just 90 seconds remaining and had a shot cleared off the line in what was the first of only two fleeting appearances for his country.
POLAND 0 ENGLAND 3 – Monterrey, June 11, 1986
England’s group campaign at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico wasn't exactly going according to plan after an opening defeat to Portugal was followed by an equally disappointing goalless draw with Morocco – a result compounded by the sending off of Ray Wilkins and tournament-ending injury to Bryan Robson. England’s qualification hopes were hanging by a thread but cometh the hour, cometh the man in the shape of Gary Lineker who, ably assisted by the recalled Peter Beardsley, scored a memorable hat-trick on his way to becoming the tournament’s leading scorer.and an instant target for Spanish giants Barcelona. Lineker followed up his three-goal salvo against the Poles (the second quickest World Cup hat-trick) with two more in the 3-0 demolition of Paraguay in the second round, so setting up a quarter final showdown with Argentina. The then Everton striker was on target in that game too, but the less said about England’s exit at the ‘hand of God’ the better.
POLAND 0 ENGLAND 2 – Chorzow, May 31, 1997
The Alan Shearer-Teddy Sheringham partnership which had proved so profitable – and so easy on the eye – at Euro 96 was bearing fruit again in the following World Cup qualifying campaign. With Glenn Hoddle’s men locked in a tight race for a place in the France ’98 finals with Italy, who had beaten the Three Lions at Wembley earlier in the campaign, this trip to Chorzow was always going to be crucial. Poland had become regular rivals and, on their own turf, were never a pushover but Alan Shearer gave England the perfect start with a goal after just six minutes. The Three Lions struggled to build on their early dominance but, after a nerve-jangling period late on, Teddy Sheringham secured the victory and three priceless points with a second goal in the last minute. It was no more than England deserved, and a further four points from their final two games against Moldova and Italy ensured World Cup qualification.
ENGLAND 3 POLAND 1 – Wembley, March 27, 1999
Just as Gary Lineker had put Poland to the sword in Mexico 13 years earlier, Paul Scholes stepped up to the plate with a special three-goal haul of his own – the last England hat-trick at the old Wembley and the first by an England player since Ian Wright against San Marino six years earlier. The Manchester United playmaker opened the scoring with a clever chip over the Polish keeper and made it 2-0 courtesy of an impeccable assist from club colleague David Beckham. The Wembley crowd became a little anxious when Polish skipper Jerzy Brzeczek pulled a goal back for the visitors but Scholes remained the coolest man in the stadium as he headed home his and England’s third decisive goal to get Kevin Keegan’s England reign off to a winning start. Keegan famously said afterwards: “Played one; won one. I should resign now!”
England’s full record against Poland
England have faced Poland 18 times in both competitive matches and friendlies since their first meeting in 1966 – winning ten, drawing seven and losing just one. Here’s how.
England 1 Poland 1 – January 5, 1966 (Moore)
Poland 0 England 1 – July 5, 1966 (Hunt)
Poland 2 England 0 – June 6, 1973
England 1 Poland 1 – October 17, 1973 (Clarke, pen)
England 3 Poland 0 – June 11, 1986 (Lineker 3)
England 3 Poland 0 - June 3, 1989 (Lineker, Barnes,J, Webb)
Poland 0 England 0 - October 11, 1989
England 2 Poland 0 - October 17, 1990 (Lineker, Beardsley)
Poland 1 England 1 - November 13, 1991 (Lineker)
Poland 1 England 1 - May 29, 1993 (Wright,I)
England 3 Poland 0 - September 8, 1993 (Ferdinand, L, Gascoigne, Pearce)
England 2 Poland 1 - October 9, 1996 (Shearer 2)
Poland 0 England 2 - May 31, 1997 (Shearer, Sheringham)
England 3 Poland 1 - March 27, 1999 (Scholes 3)
Poland 0 England 0 - September 8, 1999
Poland 1 England 2 - September 8, 2004 (Defoe, Glowacki og)
England 2 Poland 1 - October 12, 2005 (Owen, Lampard)
Poland 1 England 1 - October 17, 2012 (Rooney)