Montreal ’76 : Poles Expected To Repeat


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Defending champion POLAND were widely seen as the team to beat at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal and for good reason, as well. The skillful Poles under trainer KAZIMIERZ GORSKI boasted a dozen players in the 17-man squad who just two years previously had placed a highly-respectable third at the FIFA World Cup in West Germany. Two of these veterans, KAZIMIERZ DEYNA and GRZEGORZ LATO, had already shown themselves to be two of the planet’s most talented attacking footballers and were still both in the prime of their careers.

The midfield engine Deyna of army club Legia Warsaw had netted three goals at the last World Cup and finished third in the balloting for the prestigous Balon d’Or representing the European Player of the Year in 1974. The 28-year-old had been particularly dominant at the Munich Games four years earlier while scoring nine times in seven matches, including both goals when Poland rallied in the second half to unseat then-defending Olympic titlist Hungary 2-1 in the Final. Deyna was, though, still two years away from being allowed by the communist authorities in Poland to join Manchester City in the English First Division.

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Poland captain and midfielder KAZIMIERZ DEYNA (12) of army club Legia Warsaw, the leading scorer at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games who went on to register 41 goals in 97 “full” appearances for his country’s senior national side, looks to dribble past West Germany Spielfuehrer and sweeper FRANZ BECKENBAUER (5) of Bayern Munich during the de facto semi-final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup contested at the water-logged Waldstadion in Frankfurt.
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ROBERT GADOCHA, the long-time colleague of Deyna at Legia who scored six goals for the gold medalists at the 1972 Olympics, had evolved into a creator for the Poles at the 1974 World Cup. But the 30-year-old winger was no longer a part of the national team program and had just completed his first season in France for FC Nantes by the summer of 1976. Gadocha did ultimately travel to North America on his own two years later to sign for the Chicago Sting in the old NASL.

The unmitigated goal-shark Lato of Stal Mielec, however, had emerged to pick up the slack and then some. The 26-year-old with blazing speed shot seven goals to top all scorers at the 1974 World Cup and was well on his way to totaling 45 goals from an even 100 “full” internationals for Poland. Lato formed a devastating partnership up front for the national side with new club teammate ANDRZEJ SZARMACH, another 26-year-old who had scored five goals at the 1974 World Cup and would go on to accumulate 32 strikes in 61 full international matches.

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Haiti captain and legionnaire defender WILNER NAZAIRE of French second division side FC Valenciennes watches as Poland striker GRZEGORZ LATO (left) of Stal Mielec opens the scoring with the first of his two goals in the contest as the powerful Poles roll to a lopsided 7-0 result in the 1974 FIFA World Cup First Round, Group Four match at the Olympiastadion in Munich, West Germany.
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The high-scoring Poles were more than capable of quality play at the back, as well, to be certain. Left back ANTONI SZYMANOWSKI of Wislaw Cracow was already well-experienced having appeared at the 1972 Summer Olympics and 1974 World Cup both hosted by West Germany. A quintessential stay-at-home type, the 25-year-old would-be two-time World Cup defender went on to collect 81 caps for Poland in his career.

Sweeper WLADYSLAW ZMUDA of Slask Wroclaw was really just embarking on what would be a highly-distinguished career, himself. The 22-year-old cemented his place in the Polish first team at the 1974 World Cup, the first of what would be an impressive four appearances at FIFA’s most glamorous final tournament held every four years. Zmuda, who would be selected 91 times by the senior national side of Poland, ended up being named the Best Young Player at the ’74 Weltmeisterschaft in West Germany.

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Italy striker PAOLO ROSSI (20) of FC Juventus Turin, who ultimately scored six goals at Espana ’82 to win the coveted Golden Boot, is hounded from behind by Poland captain and sweeper WLADYSLAW ZMUDA (9) of Widzew Lodz, who would later spend the last five years of his career in Italian football playing for FC Hellas Verona and US Cremonese, during the semi-final of the 1982 FIFA World Cup conducted at the massive Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain.
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The Poles were not suffering between the sticks, either. JAN TOMASZEWSKI of LKS Lodz, who finished his career with 63 caps to his credit, drew global attention with strong performances at the 1974 World Cup and was named the Best Goalkeeper of the event in West Germany. The 28-year-old produced two penalty saves for Poland in the second round against Sweden and the host nation, respectively, and in the process made World Cup history as no one had ever halted two spot kicks at one tourney before.

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With the contest still scoreless eight minutes into the second half, West Germany midfielder ULI HOENESS of reigning European Cup of Champions winner Bayern Munich sees his spot kick saved by Poland goalkeeper JAN TOMASZEWSKI (2) of LKS Lodz during the de facto semi-final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup at the soggy Waldstadion in Frankfurt.
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Although he did not win a European Cup of Champions or UEFA Champions League title as would accomplished countrymen JOZEF MLYNARCZYK or JERZY DUDEK in the years that followed his own career, two-time World Cup performer JAN TOMASZEWSKI (2) is to this day the most-capped goalkeeper in the history of the Polish national football team.

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