Wasted opportunity? Poland right before Euro 2012
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|Artur Karpinski is the founder of the Underdog Football blog and works for Poznan Radio Afera.|
|Twitter : @Vikki69roxx|
|Website : UnderdogFootball.wordpress.com|
If this place was a piece of paper, it might already have a big hole from erasing dozens of different thoughts and introductions. Living in Poland, I could share a lot of insight with you – dear readers – and it was really hard to decide upon the topic I would like to present. In the end, I thought that the logistic and organisational preparation of the event was something you could easily find out about browsing Polish message boards. What? Language barrier? No no no. You won’t have any problems. The hopes we’d had and the final outcome of what we’ve managed to build and renovate can be easily put down in the most popular Polish words you’ve already learnt from the immigrant workers.
Thus, let’s focus on the game.
To understand the historical meaning of Euro 2012 for Poles and the mission our team has, we must go back in time. At least a couple of hundred years. During the 19 th century Poland was partitioned between Russia, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Only through our souls and the good, old-fashioned romantic spirit, our culture survived. The doomed fate of my proud nation has followed Poland ever since. After a very short stint of independence between the two World Wars, we were soon conquered by the evil twins: Hitler and Stalin, who once again took away everything from us. After the war, betrayed by the pseudo-allies, we were sent into the embrace of communists and the Eastern Block. After the heroic break of our gallant underground leaders, we managed to fight the Red Scare and regain independence. Because of our history, every Polish patriot knows what it’s like to be on the eternal mission – to prove everybody that, as our anthem says, “Poland has not yet perished, as long as we remain!”. Unfortunately, the high hopes we’d had soon faced cruel reality.
Paradoxically, the best years for Polish football were the communist times, when our golden generation, including the likes of Kazimierz Deyna, Grzegorz Lato and Jan Tomaszewski, won two World Cup medals. Because of numerous factors, we had to wait 16 years after the Mexican tournament of 1986 to qualify for the finals again. Back then, in 2002, under coach Jerzy Engel, Poland had a really strong team with Jerzy Dudek in goal (everybody remembers the Liverpool – Milan CL final, right?), Tomasz Hajto and Tomasz Waldoch (top-class Bundesliga defenders from Schalke) in the back line, Piotr Swierczewski from Marseille in the midfield, Jacek Krzynowek from Nurnberg on the wing and a naturalized Nigerian striker called Emmanuel Olisadebe up front. All those players were regulars in their club teams and we could really say we had a good team. Due to lack of international experience and too much pressure, we didn’t manage to qualify for the second phase.
In the current Polish team there are four big stars: Wojciech Szczesny from Arsenal and the trio from Borussia Dortmund: Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski. We have to base our tactics upon those guys. Nobody else counts. All the remaining guys could be randomly selected by the lottery machine. They are way below international level. It wouldn’t be like that if Franciszek Smuda was a bit more flexible and tolerant.
After ditching our charismatic goalkeeper Boruc and the best centre-back Zewlakow because of drinking wine on the plane after the game, we are left with no classy defenders and no sub goalie. Another victim of the anti-alcohol frenzy was Cologne’s right winger Slawomir Peszko, who took a drunk ride by cab in the middle of the night. In his free time of course. There are also players who were just dropped without a reason. Some were not even scouted thoroughly – like Marcin Kus from Istanbul BB. Given the lack of defensive power in our NT, why didn’t Smuda jump on a plane and go to Turkey to watch him play? The interviews the coach gives are inconsistent and full of nonsense. “Franz” claims that our players from the Turkish league don’t get playing time and it’s no use going there. Well – the fastest player in the team (he eventually miraculously made it to the final squad) – Kamil Grosicki hardly ever missed a game for Sivasspor and he was shortlisted by both Besiktas and Galatasaray! For Smuda – he hasn’t existed for over a year. Another example is Tomasz Frankowski. Some may be familiar with this name, as he had an unsuccessful stint at Wolves a few years ago. However, it didn’t surprise me at all, as “Franek” is not physically capable of fighting with typical English defenders from the Championship. In the Polish league he relies on his flair and off-the-ball awareness, gently manoeuvring between the opposition’s defenders. Frankowski is the fourth all- time goalscorer in Poland and a true legend. He was also the top Polish goalscorer this season, just behind the Latvian Artjoms Rudnevs in Ekstraklasa. Unfortunately, Smuda sees him only as the strikers’ coach in the national team, stating that he will not risk calling up a 38-year-old player. Well, if at 38 he is way better than the 25-year-olds, then who cares about his age? For example – Smuda called up Michal Kucharczyk from Legia, who scored only 3 goals, but left out Frankowski, who scored 15! Last but not least, “Franz” decided to call up a group of players with no apparent connection to Poland, apart from some distant familiar roots. Needless to say, we now have NT members who cannot speak Polish. I am sure all English readers remember the case when somebody had a “brilliant” idea to call up Manuel Almunia as a remedy for the ever present lack of quality goalkeepers in England. The reaction of football fans down here was similar. All the fanatic groups turned their backs on the national team and even some milder football lovers started having doubts whether Smuda’s team is really Polish at all. Last week, the legendary “Man who stopped England” – Jan Tomaszewski – said he was ashamed of this team and that he would not support them in the forthcoming matches. The likes of dual nationality holders like Boenisch, Matuszczyk, Polanski, Perquis and Obraniak are Smuda’s favorites, but even in this matter he is being ultimately inconsistent! If he decided to call up those players, why didn’t he check the others? MLS top scorer Chris Wondolowski? No way. Malmo diamond and future European star Ivo Pekalski? No way. Adam Bodzek, who in fact plays for Fortuna Dusseldorf - just like Adam Matuszczyk, who hardly gets a game there? No way! The Brazilian/Polish free kick and long shots specialist Juninho (Anselmo Vendrechowski)? Too short! (I personally informed Polish FA about this player and that’s what they said… It seems that Maradona and Messi can be grateful that they weren’t born Polish – they would never get a game for the NT). There are plenty of others…
Being aware of all that, it is really hard to be a supporter of the Polish national team. Knowing that any football fan could call up a better 23-people squad than Smuda is devastating. This was the chance of our lifetime. It will be wasted because of the indolent coach with his own superstitions and inexplicable choices. We all wanted this great event to get stuck in our memory forever. Now I think that when it finishes, we will all want to forget it as soon as possible. Paying off the loans taken by our government with our tax money of course…
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