You’d be forgiven for not being entirely aware of the talents of Kacper Kozlowski prior to the start of Euro 2020.
The youngster has been making a name for himself in the Polish top-flight with Pogon Szczecin having broken into the first team at just 15 years of age, though with only 20 league appearances to his name he’s hardly an experienced campaigner.
That being said, with four international caps under his belt he’s already achieved more than a lot of professional footballers do in their entire career, and at just 17 years of age he’s proved himself to have the quality and the mentality to cut it at the top level.
Nobody can deny that Poland’s showing at Euro 2020 was anything more than underwhelming, with even the talents of Robert Lewandowski unable to save them from finishing rock bottom of Group E having mustered just a single point.
Regardless of how poor a team’s performance at a tournament is there’s often a couple of positives to be taken, and Kozlowski’s emergence is undoubtedly something head coach Paulo Sousa can take away from their wretched campaign.
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The 17-year-old became the youngest ever player at the European Championships when he was brought on as a second-half substitute in his side’s second group outing against Spain, but you wouldn’t have guessed his tender age judging by his performance.
Immediately after Lewandowski had equalised Sousa called for the youngster and his impact on the game was clear.
While the prospect of coming face to face with a Spanish midfielder may seem pretty daunting, in truth the teenager couldn’t have asked for a much better opponent for his major international tournament debut.
It’s easy to forget that at just 17 Kozlowski is far from the finished article physically and so his main strengths lie in his feet. The Pole’s introduction saw his side take much better care of the ball and they were subsequently afforded a break from the seemingly relentless waves of Spanish attacks.
Even after his arrival in the game the Spaniards had the majority of the play, yet even with fleeting spells in possession you could tell Kozlowski was a talented technician with the ball at his feet, while his work rate and battling off the ball – something there was a lot of – was just as impressive.
The midfielder yet again found himself on the bench for Poland’s final group game against Sweden as he was afforded little more than 20 minutes of action in the second half.
This time he enjoyed much more possession and was clearly at ease in a number of different roles, including out wide and in front of the back four when his team were on the back foot.
Given the fact his only two appearances at Euro 2020 consisted of a 20-minute cameo and a game against Spain where his team struggled to get hold of the ball, it would be harsh to criticise a 17-year-old given the circumstances, and to be honest we’ve got absolutely no need to criticise Kozlowski because he was a credit to himself and his country.
We don’t like to throw sob stories out there, but when you consider the fact Kozlowski was in danger of never playing football again after suffering a serious injury in a car crash just 18 months ago, suddenly the magnitude of his achievements this summer seem to double in size.
Poland endured a miserable Euro 2020, nobody is going to deny that, but in Kozlowski they’ve got a real gem and someone who in years to come is likely to be carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders.