"We need to believe we can win this tournament," says Poland's Portuguese coach.
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Paulo Sousa was appointed as Poland coach in January 2021, replacing the departed Jerzy Brzęczek. A UEFA Champions League winner with both Juventus and Dortmund as a player, Sousa will need to tap into that experience now after just five games in charge of his new side.
Three draws and one victory represent a solid, encouraging start for the 50-year-old as he seeks to navigate a route out of Group E, where they will face Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. The coach spoke to UEFA.com about the significance of the opening game, implementing his tactics and managing star forward Robert Lewandowski.
On going into a first major tournament as coach…
I always look at things really positively. I believe in everything we do with lots of conviction: what we need to pass, on a daily basis, on to our players. I feel the players are receptive to everything that we show them. We have a long way to becoming really, really strong. We have quality, but we need to be much more organised and more aggressive, with more ambition in our game.
And we've already made steps on this. In our games, we've made them. Unfortunately, we didn't achieve the maximum points that the team worked towards during the game, because we deserved much more. But it made us more and more focused to achieve that. For that, I'm really positive about starting this tournament well.
On the importance of the first match…
It's not a crucial one because the last national team to win this tournament showed us that it's not the crucial one to win the tournament, But it's fundamental in many things, especially for us where we started this process not too long ago, with new ideas, a new philosophy, new method of training, new leadership.
It will not be easy. It will be a very dynamic game, it will be mental, about focus, we can't make any mistakes, we need to be ready. We have to find gaps in Slovakia, a team that is well organised and defends well with a mid to low block. They're really strong in transition, very direct, they don't spend much energy in the build-up and are also really strong from set pieces.
On instilling his playing philosophy in such a short period of time…
It's really difficult because in one season at clubs, you have around five or six weeks with six or seven games, sometimes, before you start your season. Here, you don't have that time, and you have players coming from different football, different dynamics. We want to integrate all of them. As I always say, with different passports relating to the game, we need to create just one. That is our challenge, especially for our top players.
On Lewandowski being key to the team's success…
He's majorly important as the quality he has raises our level and you can see a country relying on him. He is always a very sensible boy, he always wants to perform. You can see all what he has achieved so far. He needs to have discipline, ambition, he always needs to push himself to the maximum.
We are working on heading in that direction where we can have a team that is balanced, organised, aggressive with players who at certain moments of the game, spend two or three times more energy to get up and support him, where in the key moments he needs to make a difference. He knows how to make the difference and he will make the difference.
On his expectations of the tournament
We need to go step by step. The first step is to get through the group stage. It is difficult, because it is difficult to win every match against each opponent. But we can win against each opponent, we have the tools to do it. For that, we need to believe it's possible to win this tournament.Get the EURO 2020 app!