The advertisement was for a bank and had been designed to appeal to Polish television audiences. It featured three men huddled on a sofa, their gazes transfixed by the football match being shown on the flat screen a few feet in front of them. So far so very ordinary but the strange thing about this particular, recently run, commercial was that, while the clothing and decor were 21st century, the game in question took place in 1973. The pictures beamed into that sitting room showed Jan Domarski scoring at Wembley during a 1-1 draw that, infamously, prevented England from qualifying for the 1974 World Cup finals.
In contrast, Poland not only went to West Germany but finished third, defeating Brazil 1-0 in the third place play-off. With T-shirts commemorating the time when the national side were "better than Brazil" still in production it is easy to understand why advertisers crave association with Poland's 1970s heroes rather than its class of 2012.
If the country's successful co-hosting of this summer's European Championship offered cause for celebration, the team's failure to progress beyond the initial group stage provoked disappointment. It also prompted the resignation of Franciszek Smuda, the team's coach, whose replacement by Waldemar Fornalik left many Poles underwhelmed. Fornalik's critics – and there are quite a few – point out that the 49 year old spent seven years coaching clubs in the country's Ekstraklasa without collecting a trophy and, moreover, posseses a negative, overly defensive, tactical mindset.
Prezeglad Sportwy, a national magazine, has claimed that "Poland is now in the third world of football". While a 1-0 friendly defeat in Estonia is regularly cited as part of the case against Fornalik, two subsequent World Cup qualifers have featured a 2-2 draw in Montenegro and a 2-0 home win against Moldova.
Friday evening saw an unconvincing, edgy, 1-0 friendly victory against South Africa in front of a Warsaw audience who whistled their team off at half-time and departed lamenting an alarming lack of midfield creativity. Not that England are necessarily poised for a cakewalk. Studded with six footers, Fornalik's side remain physically robust and could prove awkwardly defiant. Also, a trio of their better players – the Borussia Dortmund pair Robert Lewandowski and Lukasz Piszczek as well as Bordeaux's Ludovic Obraniak – were rested on Friday.
Indeed as Roy Hodgson seeks to avoid a painful stumble it is probably a good thing Jakub Blaszczykowski is sidelined by injury. Fornalik's captain, another Bundesliga winner with Dortmund, is extremely influential in midfield and will be missed.
The bad news for Hodgson is that England tend to find games with Poland tough. And Fornalik possesses Lewandowski. Poland's key striker, talisman and sole real "star" is much coveted by Europe's top clubs who would love to lure him away from Germany. Described as a dynamic Dimitar Berbatov, Lewandowski's ability to link play could hurt England, and the same goes for the dead balls delivered by Trabszonspor's Adrian Mierzejewski.
Fornalik's homework has been aided by some inside information from Tomasz Kuszczak. Brighton's former Manchester United goalkeeper hopes to be rewarded with a starting place ahead of PSV Eindhoven's Przemyslav Tyton with ankle trouble ruling out Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny. How Fornalkik must wish Szczesny's Arsenal team-mate, the Polish born striker, Lukas Podolski had not opted to represent Germany, the country to which his parents emigarated when he was six.
The Lazio forward, Miroslav Klose's decision to follow a similar path proves equally frustrating for fans of Polska Bialo Czerwoni – Poland's Red and Whites – but Jerzy Engel, a former national coach, cites the Iron Curtain's collapse in 1989 as being behind many of the country's current football travails. When communism ended clubs lost state sponsors and leading coaches emigrated en masse.
"In the 1990s there were huge political and economic changes here," said Engel. "Everything changed. When you have such big things happening in a country it's difficult to develop sport. There are more important things to concentrate on. At that time we lost a lot of talented players because they missed out on the chance to be properly coached and developed."
England lack similar excuses but a mutual sense of underachievement arguably fosters a largely amicable international rivalry. It perhaps also reflects the fact that a significant minority of English people have Polish parents or grandparents who came to Britain as "displaced persons" following the second world war.
Phil Jagielka is among them. His grandparents arrived in Cheshire via Africa in 1948 and he had the chance to represent Poland or England. After choosing the land of his birth, Jagielka, Lewandowski's potential minder on Tuesday, will be anxious to impress two sets of fans.