By Pawel Dimow
Defeat against FC Dinamo Tbilisi may have denied Wisla Kraków a place in the UEFA Cup group phase, but the club's leading striker, Tomasz Frankowski, is still having a terrific season. The 30-year-old has been in rampant form for his club, and has already scored 21 goals for them since the start of the campaign.
His strike in the 2-1 win against MKS Odra Wodzislaw Slaski on 17 October saw Frankowski join his striking partner Maciej Zurawski as one of only 25 players to have scored over 100 goals in the Polish Ekstraklasa. Tellingly, it only took him 161 games to reach that target.
"The time to get excited about such achievements will come when I stop playing football," said Frankowski after that match. "
Now I would like to score 150 goals in the league." And he is certainly not resting on his laurels, scoring again as Wisla beat Koszarawa Zywiec 2-0 in the Polish Cup this weekend.
Frankowski has long had a reputation as a great goalscorer in Polish football - he was the Ekstraklasa's top scorer in 1999 and 2001. He has won four league titles, two Polish Cups and one Polish League Cup since joining Wisla in 1998 and is the club's longest serving player.
Born in Bialystok, Frankowski played for local side Jagellonia Bialystok before moving to France in 1993 to play for RC Strasbourg. However, he failed to get a foothold in French football, and after spells with CEP Poitiers and FC Martigues, and a brief tour of duty in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight, he returned home to join Wisla.
Since then the goals have flowed freely, and in the last few years, Frankowski and Zurawski have formed a goalscoring powerhouse at Wisla. And having started this season in such commanding form, Frankowski has now found the door to Pawel Janas' national team opening to him.
The striker made four substitute appearances for Poland in 1999 and 2000 but never quite managed to find his feet. However, since returning to the squad for the current round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers, he has been able to prove his worth scoring against Austria and Wales in recent games.
His next challenge is to win a place in the starting lineup, as he has yet to play a full 90 minutes for Poland. As the player said: "I am happy to be playing in the national team and pleased to be useful. However, I will feel more confident when I start from the beginning of each match."
Certainly, Frankowski's form in European competition this season will have done his hopes of a place in the first XI for Poland's next Group 6 games against Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland next March. In five UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup ties this season, he managed to score seven goals.
While traditionally foreign-based players have dominated the Poland squad, Janas now has the privilege of being able to pick two Polish-based strikers in Frankowski and Zurawski who are prolific at all levels and well used to playing alongside each other having done so for so long at Wisla.
"I do not plan to use Tomasz Frankowski as a joker," confirmed Janas. "He needs a longer stay in the national team and then he will start playing from the kick-off." With Poland looking to hang on to second place in Group 6, the joker of old could well turn out to be a trump card.
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