Poland Appoints New Head Coach for Their National Team


Fernando Santos is transitioning from coaching Cristiano Ronaldo to leading Robert Lewandowski, another soccer great. Santos was named coach of Poland’s national team on Tuesday in Warsaw, a month after departing from his native Portugal. After Leo Beenhakker and Paulo Sousa, 68-year-old Santos is Poland’s third foreign-born coach. He brings experience coaching prominent players like Ronaldo, whom Santos even benched last month during the World Cup’s knockout stages.

Now, Santos will coach a team led by Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski, who, at 34, is nearing the end of his career and may only play in the European Championship in 2024 and possibly the World Cup in 2026. Santos is tasked with making up for Poland’s poor performance in recent major tournaments. Only one World Cup (2022) and one European Championship has seen the national team advance past the group stage since 1986.

Santos has a solid international pedigree and is known for being a pragmatic and defensive-minded coach. He led Portugal to the inaugural Nations League title in 2019 and the Euro 2016 title, which was the nation’s first international trophy. He also coached Greece at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2012, where it reached the quarterfinals.

After reaching the World Cup knockout stage for the first time in 36 years, Poland did not extend the contract of Santos’ predecessor, Czeslaw Michniewicz. Dec. 31 marked the end of Michniewicz’s contract. After the Polish soccer federation stated that it would be hiring a foreign coach, former Portugal and South Korea coach Paulo Bento and Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, who was recently fired by Aston Villa in the Premier League, were linked with the position. This will be a major challenge for the Portuguese after a rough ending to his tenure at Portugal.

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