Dawid Kownacki has been a sensation in the Polish Ekstraklasa in recent weeks – and is now ready to fire his nation to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals.
Kownacki was not involved in October's qualifying round when three wins took Poland through to the elite round, where they face Group 2 hosts Greece, Norway and Turkey in Patras from Tuesday. But the attacking midfielder will definitely be the man to watch in the mini-tournament, having become KKS Lech Poznań's youngest-ever scorer, aged 16 years and 344 days, against MKS Pogoń Szczecin on 21 February.
"I will never forget this match as it was a very unusual one," Kownacki told UEFA.com. "I could not believe I scored but neither could I believe the result. We lost 5-1 and Marcin Robak got all the goals for Pogoń. I was happy because of the goal, but the result made me sad."
Only the fifth player under 17 to score in the Ekstraklasa, he had actually made his debut on 6 December in a crucial 2-0 defeat of Wisła Kraków. "It was Saint Nicholas's Day, but I don't think it was a gift from the coach," Kownacki said of his substitute cameo. "I worked hard and he thought I deserved the chance."
He has continued to make an impact, and on his 17th birthday – 14 March – Kownacki provided assists for both Lech goals in a 2-1 victory over TS Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biala. Even the great Zbigniew Boniek, president of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN), was moved to tweet: "If there is good support for the player from his family, school, etc., Poland will have another very good player."
Kownacki responded: "Of course I read this and it is very nice, but on the other hand I don't read all opinions about me because I don't want to go mad. I know I still have a lot to learn. [Against Podbeskidzie] I started an Ekstraklasa game for the first time and was happy with my performance as I helped the team by winning the [decisive] penalty."
Ruled out of next weekend's 'Derby of Poland' at leaders Legia Warszawa due to his duties in Greece, Kownacki admitted: "I wish I could play, but representing my country is great source of pride and I am focused on helping the team qualify. As far as Lech are concerned, I do believe we can win the title this year. If I manage to qualify for the EURO finals and win the league, I would be extremely happy."
With the potential to follow in the footsteps of recent Lech graduates Robert Lewandowski and Artjoms Rudņevs, Kownacki has a fine international record too. "I will never forget my first game for Poland, it was an Under-15 friendly against Germany," he said. "We won 5-3 and I scored a hat-trick. Then we played another game against them, 2-2, and I scored twice. It was quite a good start for me!"
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