After watching Poland’s victory with San Marino tonight I came to realise that things for the national team are not as bad as everyone here is making out. Here follows a short attempt to break through the layers of negativity which seems to have developed around the national side since Friday’s loss to Ukraine. I am fully aware that by looking at the bright side of things I might be papering over the cracks. But what the hell someone has to do it.
1) Trainer Waldemar Fornalik. Ok, his team selection seems a bit wayward at times but Fornalik comes across as a relatively bright, switched on thinker who’s prepared to take risks and change things if need be. Sure it didn’t work against Ukraine, but what manager doesn’t have an off-day? The real test, should he be allowed to stay in the job, comes in the games with Montenegro at home, and England and Ukraine away. There’s no reason to say that he won’t have learnt his lessons from the Ukraine game and come up with the answers. After all he seemed to outwit Roy Hodgson in a tactical battle only 5 short months ago.
2. Results. They haven’t been that bad, indeed, apart from the loss at home to Ukraine, Poland has achieved the points everyone expected them to get in their World Cup Qualifying group and possibly even a little bit more. Poland have gained points at home to England which many people thought they would lose, and have drawn away in Montenegro, a place which England have just shown is not an easy place to play. A win in Poland’s two next games, away in Moldova and home to Montenegro puts them in with a very decent chance of getting to Brazil 2014.
3. The other teams in their group are not that good. It is evident that Poland’s World Cup group is made up of four teams (Poland, Ukraine, Montenegro and England) which are incredibly equal. Montenegro might have some great players but they have never qualified for a top tournament before as an independent country, which means they have to jump a significant psychological hurdle to get to the finals. England are a team in decline who have already dropped points away in Poland in Montenegro and at home to Ukraine. Hardly any of their players are in their prime and those that are (Rooney) seem to have lost their spark. Ukraine may have won impressively in Warsaw but they too are a team in transition with a new coach. To qualify then Poland just need to be a bit better than three other decent (some might say actually mediocre) but not superb teams. This can be done.
4) Poland has youth on its side . Right now Poland is developing one of the best collection of young players it has had in the last 20 years. Bartosz Salamon has just been signed by AC Milan, Rafał Wolski is at Fiorentina, Arkadiusz Milik is at Bayer Leverkusen. In Poland’s much maligned domestic league, the Ekstraklasa, there are also a host of exciting players coming through. Legia Warsaw have Jakub Kosecki, Dominik Furman and Daniel Łukasik and players such as Pawel Wszołek and Adam Pazio at Polonia Warsaw and Mariusz Stępiński of Widzew Łódź are developing well. All of these players have the potential to make a mark on the national side.
5) Poland has established stars in their prime. Admittedly it has been difficult recently to bind these players into an efficient team unit but Poland has the biggest collection of players at good-sized European clubs that it’s had for a long time. Robert Lewandowski is the top scorer in the German league, and Jakub Błaszczykowski and Łukasz Piszczek are regulars in Borussia Dortmund’s Champions’ League quarter-finalist side. Bordeaux’s Ludovic Obraniak, although criticised heavily, has the talent to play at the highest stage. Added to these stars are a host of players who are some of the most talented players at their clubs in top European leagues. Grzegorz Krychowiak at Stade de Reims, Kamil Glik at Torino, Adrian Mierzejewski at Trabzonspor. This is a good base from which to choose from for the national side.
So whilst things at times do seem pretty bleak over here, there are some reasons to be positive. So all you Poles sneering at the national side, stop the smirking, puff up your chest, your side might just be on its way to Brazil. And if reading this hasn’t made you feel a little more confident, you can’t blame me for trying.