Michał Żewłakow, who is set to win his 100th Poland cap, tells UEFA.com about his international career including qualifying for three major finals and making history alongside his twin.
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Captain Michał Żewłakow can win his 100th Poland cap when the UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts play the United States in Chicago on Saturday and the 34-year-old defender spoke to UEFA.com about his long national team career – including the joy of qualifying for three major tournaments, making history with twin brother Marcin and his unhappy memories of facing Germany.
First game ...
"It was a surprise for me when coach Janusz Wójcik called me up in June 1999. I had just started my holidays when the national team were due to visit Thailand for the King's Cup. I still don't know whether he called me up just because I was available in Warsaw or because he really wanted me in the team. Maybe for that reason I think my true Poland debut was a year later against Spain – we lost 3-0 – under a new coach, Jerzy Engel."
First goal ...
"Against Armenia in Warsaw, my home city, in 2001. Both me and my twin brother Marcin scored our first goals for Poland in that match. And our parents watched us at the stadium. So we have happy memories."
Most memorable game ...
"There are a few. I remember the decisive games in qualifying campaigns, especially a 3-0 victory against Norway in Chorzow in 2001 which was a real thrill, as we qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 16 years. We'd had an exciting campaign with big wins and lots of emotion – getting to Korea [and Japan] was our dream. But the game that took us to EURO 2008, when we beat Belgium 2-0, is worth remembering as well. Then there are other qualifiers which have restored the fans' belief, such as a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in 2008 and the 2-2 draw with Portugal in Lisbon a year earlier."
Most difficult opponents ...
"Germany. We have never sunk our teeth into them. A few times it looked like we were in good shape to beat them, after successful qualifying campaigns for big tournaments. We had two opportunities to exorcise the bad memories, in the 2006 World Cup and EURO 2008. But they saw us off again. So we are still hungry to beat them. You could sum up Poland's predicament by saying: we all get to play, but Germany always win."
Biggest disappointment ...
"A World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland that we lost 3-2 in Belfast in spring 2009 [Żewłakow scored an own goal]. I would like to remove it from my mind. But the memory keeps coming back. I think that game will be talked about for years. Now I at least have some distance from it. And I try to joke about it, instead of taking it too seriously like immediately after the game."
"Not an easy role. As a normal player I could concentrate on myself and did not feel such great responsibility. It is obvious you have different characters in the team, some easy-going, some less so. The captain has to put out any kind of fire, for better or worse. Sometimes there is no discussion when a decision has to be made. You need a lot of energy for the job. But I was aware of this when I was approached to become captain. How well do I perform this task? Somebody else should say. I can only say that I feel good in the role."
Twin brother ...
"My first Poland game with Marcin was a historic one. It was the first time twins had played together for the Polish national team. It was in 2000 at the Stade de France. And at that time France were world champions. For me and Marcin it was a great experience. We were playing for a mid-table Belgian club, Excelsior Mouscron, and had never appeared at such a great stadium, against such world-class players. Despite Poland losing 1-0, it was not a bad performance. Our parents came to Paris to watch us. They are our real fans and support us in the most important moments. "
100th game ...
"On an occasion like this you would like to have a really special game – and a win. You would like to have only good memories. But I don't want to think too much about it being a special event or a great achievement. I just want it to be a happy occasion to look back on."
Born: 22 April 1976
Clubs: KSP Polonia Warszawa, Hutnik Warszawa, KSK Beveren, R. Excelsior Mouscron, RSC Anderlecht, Olympiacos FC, MKE Ankaragücü
Honours: Belgian championship – 2004, 2006 (with Anderlecht); Greek championship – 2007, 2008, 2009; Greek Cup – 2008, 2009 (with Olympiacos)
Poland debut: 19 June 1999 v New Zealand (0-0), Bangkok
Major tournaments: FIFA World Cup (2002, 2006), UEFA European Championship (2008)