- Zbigniew Boniek praises Polish fans
- Head of Polish FA tips Ukraine in final
- “The world needs national teams to support”
With the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019 fast approaching, Polish Football Association president and Biało-czerwoni legend Zbigniew Boniek sat down with FIFA.com to offer perspective on the competition and beyond.
Boniek says he is extremely happy with how the U-20 World Cup has gone in his home country both in the stands and on the pitch. In terms of the final, the Polish football great considers Ukraine to be slight favourites, but also points out the qualities that have enabled Korea Republic to get so far.
FIFA.com: How important has organising this tournament been to Poland?
Zbigniew Boniek: The U-20 World Cup has shown that Poland is a wonderful and open country with great infrastructure that was a perfect fit for such a tournament. We showed that we could take care of and help the teams that came here. I spoke to many of those who were here for this World Cup and they all said they felt right at home. They commented on how professional everything felt from start to finish. I think the most important game is still to come – the final. I’m convinced the stadium will be sold out, but it won’t be full of fans sitting quietly and waiting for something to happen to get them off their seats. Instead it’ll be a stadium full of emotions, with fans getting behind one of the teams. That’s the reality. And we’ll prepare some surprises, too.
What have you thought of the Polish fans?
I must say our fans have been fantastic. It’s unbelievable how good an atmosphere they created at the Lodz Stadium during Poland’s games. And when Polish fans came out to watch other teams play, they chose the side they were going to support, usually the underdog, and got behind them. We saw it in the semi-final in Gdynia, where fans were cheering on Ukraine more than Italy.
What have you enjoyed most about the competition so far?
I would say the logistical side and how well prepared the stadiums are, as well as how the tournament has come across on TV. Secondly, I love that we’ve seen an amazing fighting spirit from every team. Games have been very interesting; if you step away for even a minute to make a coffee you can miss something. The story can change in a matter of seconds and anytime from the first minute until the last.
The third aspect is the importance of national teams. The world needs national teams to support, so let’s not keep saying that it’s only clubs and their competitions that matter. Yes, clubs pay the players, but football can only survive and grow in importance if the national teams play. After every scored goal and every good result here at Poland 2019, you can see how much it means to the players and how much they identify with their national flag.
Which side has surprised you the most?
Ukraine, because they are kind of similar to Poland. We played against them a year ago in a friendly in Bielsko-Biala and we won 2-1. Eight of their players from that match have taken part here! Ukraine have been getting better by the game here.
Are you surprised by who has made the final?
I think it was a huge surprise. Who could have predicted Korea Republic against Ukraine? You’d have to be clairvoyant to call that one. In terms of Asian representatives, I think a lot of people expected Japan to go furthest. But what matters in football is passion, commitment, tactics, stamina, speed, focus and one hundred per cent devotion. It’s going to be a really good final. May the best team win!
Who do you consider to be favourites for the title?
Good question. From a footballing perspective, Ukraine would seem to be slightly better, but from a tactical point of view and also in terms of discipline, Korea Republic will be hard to beat. A lot of teams wrongly thought that Korea Republic could be easily beaten here, right?
What message do you have for the two finalists?
I must congratulate them on reaching the final. However, I know both teams will want to win it now, which can only mean tears of joy for one and tears of sadness for the other at the end. Sporting tears are never all bad, though, as they stem from competition, which itself is always good. I’m sure they’ve had a great time in Poland. Good luck in the final!