Nearly three years after his Poland debut, French-born midfielder Ludovic Obraniak told UEFA.com about his pride in playing for the co-hosts ahead of Friday's big kick-off.
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It is rare a footballer's comments receive an ovation from members of the press, but Ludovic Obraniak achieved that feat with just a few words on Tuesday. Two years after making his debut for Poland, the French-born Obraniak has yet to fully get to grips with the language, but a rare public utterance in Polish during a press conference won over the media.
There may have been doubts from some quarters – including those same journalists – about Obraniak's suitability for inclusion in the national set-up, but the FC Girondins de Bordeaux midfielder has no such concerns. "It means a lot [to play for Poland]. Firstly, it's a matter of pride, because my grandfather lived here," he told UEFA.com after the press conference finished.
Obraniak was recently made an honorary citizen of Pobiedziska, the city in which his grandfather was born, before emigrating to France. "It's true that for communication it's not ideal, because I don't speak Polish fluently, but I've made a lot of effort recently in order to communicate a bit more. The atmosphere within the squad now has never been better in the last two years. We are united and focused on the objective that is EURO 2012."
That unity has been more than two years in the making under coach Franciszek Smuda, whose team have produced some impressive results in the run-up to the tournament. Last weekend's 4-0 defeat of Andorra capped a six-game unbeaten streak, and a fifth successive clean sheet, leading into Friday's Group A curtain-raiser against Greece. While Obraniak conceded the co-hosts are far from favourites to lift the Henri Delaunay Cup, he highlighted the importance of producing displays of which his fellow Poles can be proud.
"They must feel that we have given everything. We are a good team, but we are not one of the best European teams at the moment. In this tournament there are stronger teams, but it will also depend on our spirit, the heart that we put into our game," said the 27-year-old, who also told the assembled press corps he would get a tattoo of the Polish White Eagle if they won the tournament.
"We will need to try to represent the shirt we are wearing. If we give everything, and people feel that, then the result itself is not important, they will be proud of what we've achieved." If Obraniak is able to reproduce the two-goal display he put in when he made his international debut in a match against Greece in August 2009, Poland may well make the positive start to UEFA EURO 2012 the country has been craving.
"We will try to win this game, because it is important for us. We have waited for so long, worked hard to prepare for it and have come a long way," added Obraniak, whose own form peaked in the latter stages of the season after moving to Bordeaux from LOSC Lille Métropole in January. "Two years ago we were rebuilding the squad with a new coach. We've worked a lot to get where we are now. I hope all this effort will be rewarded in this first game."