It was a little like the entry of the gladiators - only the
other way round. As the Poland team left the pitch after their
training session and walked through the bowels of the stadium,
their future opponents from Argentina formed a guard of honour -
purely since they were waiting to get out onto the training pitch
themselves. Looks were exchanged, adversaries eyed up, all from a
respectful distance. One player whom the Argentinians were keeping
a close eye on was Dawid Janczyk - the diamond in the rough of
The 19-year-old centre-forward made a name for himself at the 2006 UEFA U-19 European Championship - which was the qualifying tournament for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup - and his performances here in Canada have caught the eye of the coaches of a number of top European clubs. They may well end up disappointed, however, as Janczyk looks certain to sign a contract with Russian champions CSKA Moscow.
According to press reports, the striker will be heading to Russia, with four million euros going the other way to swell the coffers of his current employers, Legia Warsaw. "I haven't signed anything yet," says Janczyk to FIFA.com, "but my agent is obviously keeping me up to speed, and it's down to the two clubs now to come to an agreement. There's every chance that they'll work something out." If the four million euros being bandied about in the media are to be believed, then this will be the biggest transfer fee of all time involving a Polish club. "The U-20 World Cup is an incredible opportunity to put yourself in the shop window," continues Janczyk, underlining the importance and the interest in the tournament in Canada. "After an event like this, you've obviously got every chance of changing clubs."
"No more favourites"
A transfer is currently the furthest thing from the modest striker's mind, however - all his efforts are being trained on the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the forthcoming match against five-time champions Argentina. Not that the 19-year-old is interested in big names and trophy cabinets. "There are no more favourites when you get to this stage of the tournament. Argentina have the same chances of winning as we do," smiled an optimistic Janczyk, having already erased the painful memory of the 6-1 defeat at the hands of USA in their second group match. "The reason why we played so poorly against USA was that we had to play for 60 minutes against Brazil with ten men. That really took it out of us," he explains. While his strike against the US was obviously little more than a consolation, he is currently on two goals and keeping half an eye on the list of top scorers. And of course, the further his team progresses, the more chances he has of winning the golden shoe.
"No-one paid us much attention before the start of the tournament and no-one thought we stood much of a chance of beating Brazil," he continues, explaining that the win in the opening match over the South Americans served as a real catalyst for Poland. "Once we had beaten Brazil, we knew that we could go further and maybe even win a medal," says Janczyk of the current mood in the camp. The players are all in high spirits and taking every match as it comes, and the six-foot striker is playing up his side's chances against different South American opposition. "I think that Brazil and Argentina have the same qualities and play a similar brand of football. We took a lot out of our win over Brazil, and I think that we've got every chance of beating Argentina."
The new Boniek
Janczyk's main aim is to keep scoring goals and see how far he can take his team in the tournament. Goals, after all, are what he is all about. Legia Warsaw won the Polish league in 2006, with Janczyk's nine goals playing a big part in this success, though his fondest memory to date is of the UEFA U-19 European Championship on home soil, when he notched a hat-trick in the 4-1 group win over Belgium.
The striker's star is most definitely on the rise, and the 19-year-old certainly has a promising career ahead of him. Poland's fans have already taken him to their hearts and are calling him the new Zbigniew Boniek, and it is these very supporters who are driving the squad on to greater heights. "The whole team has been amazed by the support we've had and the encouragement they've given us," says Janczyk. "It's great to play in front of spectators like these who create such a good atmosphere. We hope that a lot of them will be able to make it to our match against Argentina, as we know that a lot of Polish people live here in Toronto."
Indeed, the team went to visit the city's Polish community on Tuesday, and they know that they can count on support from the locals as well as from back home. Daily phone calls and emails from friends and family have been keeping the team's spirits up. When asked whether his nearest and dearest would be coming to the Argentina game, Janczyk replied that they would not. "They might make it over to the final though," he grinned...