We’re partial to fiddling with fantasy line-ups at Beyond The Last Man and in the coming months we’ll be picking players, formulating formations and teasing tactics for a regular series we call Elevens. In essence we choose a retro-based theme and pick our best XI of players who fit the bill. Have we missed out obvious picks in one of our Elevens? Let us know. Do you have your own ideas for interesting themed Elevens? Feel free to submit them for consideration.
Poland has had a somewhat chequered modern football history with long periods of mediocrity before 1974 and post-1982, offset at least by that eight-year spell in-between as a genuine force in the international game.
It’s little consolation that the country’s émigrés and their descendants have made significant contributions to the international cause of other, more successful European nations – notably France and Germany. Our first Eleven is a Franco-Polish team using simple selection criteria – players must have gained full international caps for France, yet have Polish ancestry and technically been eligible to play for Poland instead.
Here’s our line-up along with some more background on the players below. You can click on the image to enlarge it.
- César Ruminski (7 caps / 1952-54) Known for his outstanding agility, this keeper won a League title and a French Cup with Lille.
- Robert Budzynski (11 caps / 1965-67) A key player in central defence for the Nantes team that won the French double in 1965 and retained the League title the following year. He was a member of France’s disappointing 1966 World Cup campaign too. We select him at right back in our team.
- Bruno Rodzik (21 caps / 1960-63) A dynamic, creative full-back who was a fixture in the Reims side during its golden era. He won 3 French titles and a French Cup with them, also playing in the team that was runners-up to Real Madrid in the 1959 European Cup Final.
- Robert Siatka (1 cap / 1960) The least capped player in our team, but a very influential one at club level. He played for a decade at Reims, winning 4 titles and a Coupe de France. He moved to Nantes and won another title in 1965. A disciplined midfield ball winner.
- Jean Djorkaeff (48 caps 3 goals / 1964-72) Ethnically Polish and Kalmyk, Jean started out as a striker, but soon converted into an elegant and competitive central defender. Playing over 500 League games in his career, he won French Cups in the 1960s with Lyon and Marseille – but never a League title. Another member of the 1966 World Cup squad.
- Théodore Szkudlapski (2 caps / 1962-63) Another player who didn’t earn the caps his talent deserved. Szkudlapski was an earlier version of Sinisa Mihailovic – a slow but skilled midfielder who would often play in a defensive role and create from deep. One of Monaco’s stars during a four-year period in the early 1960s that yielded 2 League titles and 2 French Cups for the principality club.
- Raymond Kopa (45 caps 18 goals / 1952-62) The undoubted star of this team, Kopa – or Kopaszewski as he was born – was a creative wizard, with fantastic vision and dazzling dribbling skills. He starred for Reims before earning a move to play at Real Madrid during their late 50s heyday. He came back to Reims and finished his career there, showing great loyalty and staying even when they were relegated. Kopa is generally recognised as a right winger from his time in Madrid, although this came about because Di Stefano wouldn’t let him play in the centre where he was happiest. He still performed brilliantly in a wide role and we’ve selected him there. Kopa won 4 French titles, 2 Spanish titles, 3 European Cups, a Latin Cup at both Reims and Madrid and played in the 1958 World Cup for France. Our team captain.
- Georges Bereta (44 caps 4 goals / 1967-75) Nominally a striker, Bereta was a schemer who liked to drop deep and rove around the final third looking for space. We have picked him as a deep-lying forward accordingly. He had a magnificently successful career which coincided with the rise of Saint-Etienne, where he played for many years. Winner of 6 League titles and 4 French Cups, the last of those with Marseille.
- Maryan Wisnieski (33 caps 12 goals / 1955-63) A lightning quick striker, he made his debut for France at the age of 18 and is the country’s second youngest international debutant. His goals helped Lens to runners-up spot in Ligue 1 twice in the 1950s. He spent a season in Italy with Sampdoria and returned to Saint-Etienne where he finally won a championship in 1966.
- Youri Djorkaeff (82 caps 28 goals / 1993-2002) Youri is considered to be Franco-Armenian, but he qualifies here because his father is of half-Polish extraction. Creative, calm and a very consistent creator and scorer from a withdrawn role, Youri was a success in all the five countries he played in. A World Cup and European Championship winner, he won surprisingly little at club level – a UEFA Cup with Inter, a Cup Winners Cup at PSG and a French Cup with Monaco.
- Thadée Ciscowski (13 caps 11 goals / 1951-58) A prolific striker who was deadly in the box and apathetic out of it. He starred with Racing Club Paris for eight seasons, averaging almost a goal a game for them. His stock was high abroad too – he had a habit of terrorising big-name opponents who came to France for Racing’s annual summer tournament. The only player in this selection not to win a major club honour.