Wales v Poland - all you need to know ahead of Tuesday's play-off final

Wales are hoping for a win against Poland after last week's victory against Finland. They need one more win to book their place in Germany this summer. Credit: PA Images

Wales football fans have not been starved of success in recent times.

After years in the wilderness, 2016 saw them return to the big stage in style, going all the way to the semi-finals of that year's Euros.

A run to the last 16 of that tournament's 2021 edition, and a first World Cup appearance since 1958, have shown that the spirit of '16 was no fluke.

And if Robert Page's men can book their place in Germany by prevailing over Poland on Tuesday night, the Red Wall will be bouncing again.

But can they do it? Here's your guide to the rival teams, and the areas where the big game might be won and lost.

  • Polish fans were in high spirits ahead of the big game

Patchy Polish

Poland have endured mixed results of late. Qualifying defeats to Albania and Moldova - the latter described by one journalist as an "humiliation" - saw the sacking of manager Fernando Santos.

For a team which reached the last 16 of the World Cup, a 3rd place finish in Qualifying Group E was disappointing.

But Poland's most recent outing - a 5-1 demolition of Estonia in the play-off semi-final - proved a timely reminder of their capabilities.

And Wales have also shown inconsistency, suffering their own qualifying setbacks before last week's convincing win over Finland.

Both teams will be looking to find their best form on Tuesday evening.

The Lewandowski factor

With a record number of appearances (147) and goals (82), Robert Lewandowski is to Poland what Gareth Bale was to Wales; a talisman to whom his team mates look for inspiration when the going gets tough.

Robert Lewandowski holds Poland's record for appearances and goals scored. Credit: PA photos

In Poland's last visit to the Cardiff City stadium for the Nations' League clash in 2022, it was Lewandowski who set up Karol Swiderski's winner with a moment of magic.

By his lofty standards, his form in a Poland shirt has been unspectacular of late. But even at 35, the Barcelona striker will be a man to worry the Wales defence on Tuesday night.

For his part, Wales manager Robert Page insists his players won't be too star-struck by Lewandowski, saying this week:

"He’s a fantastic player and we will respect that, but it stops there. We’ve done the analysis of him, shown the defenders the strengths and weaknesses. They’ve got good players but we are more than capable."

Fortress Cardiff

While a match of this magnitude might fill the Principality Stadium, it's hard to dispute the Cardiff City ground's status as the spiritual home of this Wales side.

From the win over Belgium in 2015, to the victory over Ukraine which sealed their spot in the World Cup, the city stadium has been the arena in which Wales have produced the goods when it's really counted.

Robert Page has described the "Red Wall" - the name given to Wales' passionate fans - as a "massive" asset, and they will doubtless provide another full-throated rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau before the game.

But there is one warning from history: in just 3 defeats from 23 home games, one has come at the hands of tomorrow's opponents...Poland.

In fact, the Welsh record against their Polish visitors reads: played ten, won one... and you have to go all the way back to 1973 for that solitary victory.

That's a record Ben Davies' men will be determined to demolish this time.

With more than 30,000 Wales fans inside a sold out stadium, they'll fancy their chances of doing so.

Brennan Johnson celebrates his goal against Finland. Credit: PA photos

Young Guns

For those wondering how Wales would fare in their first qualifying campaign without Bale, there's been plenty to like in the last year.

The likes of Harry Wilson, Connor Roberts, Neco Williams and Brennan Johnson have all embraced the extra responsibility created by the great man's retirement, no doubt helped by the fact they're all getting plenty of action with their clubs.

And with the speedy Dan James coming off the bench to score the fourth against Finland, it seems Page is right to point to the depth at his disposal, with Ipswich striker Kieffer Moore also among the substitutes against the Finns.

But on a night when experience could come in handy, it'll be interesting to see if there's a role for Aaron Ramsey.

The Cardiff City captain hasn't started a game since September due to injury but has been named in the Wales squad, and may yet play his part against the Poles.

Flare warning

Fans have been warned not to bring pyrotechnic devices to Tuesday’s Euro 2024 play-off final at Cardiff City Stadium.

Seven Poland fans were arrested following a Nations League game between the two countries in Cardiff 18 months ago, including four for possession of pyrotechnics.

And the Football Association of Wales was fined more than £14,500 by FIFA after home fans let off flares during 2022 World Cup play-off victories over Austria and Ukraine in Cardiff.

Superintendent Steve Rees of South Wales Police said:

“Being in possession of a pyrotechnic device at a football match, or attempting to bring one into a football stadium, is a criminal offence, and anyone found guilty of committing such an offence faces arrest and a Football Banning Order."

  • Euro 2024 play-off final: Wales v Poland - Cardiff City Stadium, KO 1945

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