- Krychowiak was only 17 when he starred at the FIFA U-20 World Cup
- He discusses how good Aguero and Di Maria were as youngsters
- The Poland midfielder is relishing the upcoming tournament
Grzegorz Krychowiak knew he was surrounded by the stars of tomorrow at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. Sergio Aguero, Edinson Cavani, Fabio Coentrao, David Luiz, Angel Di Maria, Giovani dos Santos, Shinji Kagawa, Marcelo, Juan Mata, Gerard Pique, Alexis Sanchez, Luiz Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Willian were merely a few of them.
The Poland midfielder knew that he, too, was destined to use the tournament as a platform for an admirable career, and he was right. The former Sevilla man, now on loan at Lokomotiv Moscow from Paris Saint-Germain, chats to FIFA.com about starring as a 17-year-old in Canada, how good Aguero and Di Maria were back then, and his expectations for a magical U-20 World Cup in his homeland.
FIFA.com: Twelve years have passed since you played at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. With Poland about to host the tournament, do memories come flooding back?
Grzegorz Krychowiak: Yes, of course they do. I have only fond memories of this tournament. We reached the knockout stage, but we lost our fight for a quarter-final place with the Argentinians, who went on to become champions.
Argentina’s goals that day were scored by Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria. Those surnames must make an impression…
Only the best young players, who go on to play for the leading clubs, appear at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Aguero and Di Maria are examples of this. But in that Argentina team, there were many more good players, such as Ever Banega, with whom I played at Sevilla. This only proves how prestigious this tournament is.
Was it obvious then that they were going to become major stars?
Yes, especially in terms of their technical skills. When you analyse one of the goals we conceded, you can easily see the outstanding technical skills of Aguero.
You also had your moment during the competition. In the clash against a strong Brazil side, you scored a beautiful free-kick, which earned Poland a 1-0 win in front of over 55,000 spectators…
It was my first appearance in front of such a huge audience. More than 55,000 people! I won’t even try to hide the fact that I was a little stressed. In addition, we played against Brazil, a team comprising great players. It was a fantastic, yet very difficult match. From the 27th minute we were down to ten men because of a red card, and it was much more difficult for us to play the ball around. But it made us enjoy the victory even more, and it was one which helped us qualify for the knockout stage.
What does a 17-year-old – one of the youngest players at the tournament – feel like taking such an important free-kick against Brazil? The coach must have trusted you…
First of all, the tournament itself was a great experience for me and for Wojciech Szczesny. We were the youngest players in the team. Moreover, the fact that we represented our country at the World Cup is something special in itself. I wanted to show my best and I managed to score a goal in the match against Brazil. I often say that this is an additional advantage when the team wins. And since we managed to start the tournament off by getting three points, the joy we felt that evening was really great.
What did the tournament give you?
This was the first time people heard about Grzegorz Krychowiak, the first step in my future career. Of course, you can give a good account of yourself, but that’s when the hard work really begins. Someone could have already heard your name, but you still have to prove that you really deserve the chance.
In retrospect, what advice can you offer to the young Poles going to play in this year’s tournament?
First of all, they have to focus on the fact that it is still a football match. They will play in front of full stadiums, with their families and friends watching them, which is why it will be so important to concentrate on one specific goal. The most important thing is to be able to look in the mirror after the final whistle and say, ‘I gave my all and I do not regret anything’. Representing your country, especially before one’s own countrymen, is something to be proud of.
Who knows, maybe you’re talking about your future team-mates…
That’s exactly what I’m hoping for. I hope this tournament will be the next stage in achieving their goals, and that in the future they will have the honour of playing for the full Polish national football team.
Let’s go back to players who played at past FIFA U-20 World Cups. Messi, Maradona, Henry, Pogba, Griezmann are just some examples of such players. Can we then take it for granted that we will see future football stars in Poland?
Yes, of course we can. The best young football players in the world will play at our stadiums. This is a new generation that will become the strength of their countries’ senior teams. What’s more, every self-respecting club will watch the tournament in Poland and the players’ performances.
Match tickets have already been purchased by supporters from over 70 countries…
This only proves that the U-20 World Cup is more than just a football tournament. Polish supporters can feel lucky that such an event will take place in our country. This is not only a chance to watch great footballers live, but also an opportunity to meet with fans from all over the world and listen to them cheering on their countries.
All the more so because ticket prices are very attractive. The cheapest tickets can be purchased for PLN 10…
We live for emotions, and this tournament will be full of them. The World Cup will definitely be a great spectacle, but you have to attend matches to feel the atmosphere. I know Polish hospitality and I’m sure there is a great tournament ahead of us.