9 sty 2011

Time To Expect

Last year was not good for Polish football at all. Hammerings in games with World Cup opposition with our loss to Spain (0-6) being the biggest failure of Franciszek Smuda’s tenure as manager of Polish national team so far, also unimaginable drop in FIFA ranks and problems inside the team are those issues worth mentioning. Polish coach may not have the easiest job in the world of football, especially with such limited selection and quality, but he seems to be not aware that this year, 2011, fans will expect something more than words of hope from Smuda after yet another average performance from his team.

Starting his career as national team manager Smuda revealed that he will take his time with selection, use every minute of countless friendly games to make sure he picked the right thirty players. The magic number and goal to aim for almost seventy of those who already played for Smuda has also another limitation – time. Franciszek Smuda said that his selection will end when January 2011 will come.

He quickly corrected himself with the date though but he is not to blame for small, six-months long change for the final cut in the team. With many players underperforming for national team or being overrated by the media and Smuda, the question marks are all over the pitch for Polish squad and one will wonder how the starting eleven will look like when the first game of the tournament held in Poland and Ukraine will come. Smuda is a man of huge believe in the team but he must know that people’s credit is running low for his players and after hoping that the team will match his words, fans expect to see improvement and something more than just glimpses of performances that will be needed in the summer of 2012.

Ending selection may seem strange for many fans around the world but this team seriously needs some stability after months of players rotation inside Smuda’s squad. Coach may hold the door for someone special if the future star will arise in few months before EURO 2012 though – which is hugely doubtful that someone unnoticed and unproven with Polish citizenship is still somewhere there. Especially the formation of defence needs ending rotation and finally getting some understanding on the pitch during the games. We lack proper center backs but it’s not only about covering this positions – the whole team needs to start defend better and better to make people believe that there is something to achieve during the biggest tournament in history of Polish football.

As that was the main issue, which we all hope Franciszek Smuda is aware of, there are also important details that may help to develop the team up-field and when on the ball. Polish manager rightly tried to inject short-passing style in players heads but lately we saw that he shaken off the idea that we may be able to posses the ball for the majority of the game against better opposition and preferred  counter-attacking football. If he stays with that idea, he may find useful using two right wingers, our best at the moment, Jakub Błaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund) and Sławomir Peszko (1.FC Koln). The latter still must improve his game to match the quality the first one has but both are quick, with good technique and decent dribbling ability. Up to this moment Smuda failed to find the space for both of them in the team, using Peszko or Błaszczykowski in more central role but there must be and surely is a solution that will help the team.

There is serious problem in the centre of midfield as well and Smuda must take his decisions carefully not to affect negatively his team. Three strong contenders for two places in the middle of the pitch, Adam Matuszczyk (1.FC Koln), Rafał Murawski (Rubin Kasan) and Adrian Mierzejewski (Polonia Warszawa) but strangely it’s the second of them that recent performances are something of a disappointment. The rivalry on this position may be crucial for how the team looks and works – Murawski gives more options in defence, while Mierzejewski lately really advanced his game in attacking, especially his passing is something of a delight for Polish fans. Matuszczyk is fairly new to the team but he established himself in it very well and is one of those who can be confident of their place in the squad if he holds to his level he currently represents.

Finally, the atmosphere. Players and the manager ensure fans that everything is right inside Polish camp but two main affairs during Smuda’s time with the team put their claims in some perspective. Michał Żewłakow was kicked out of the team shortly after playing his 101st  game for Poland along with Artur Boruc – both were drinking on the plane from USA tour. Earlier it was Sławomir Peszko who had problems after the game with Australia in Kraków but he was forgiven and is back on the team. It is not all great in the camp and Smuda must take some blame for the situation – either not injecting enough discipline and letting his players for far too much while on international duty, or trusting too much his players. Hopefully he will not make the same mistakes again and the atmosphere damaging affairs are behind the team. But we need proof of that – lack of anything attracting Polish tabloids during next few months would be a good start.

Smuda is not so popular person as he was when he was picked as a favorite for the Polish national team manager role. He lost it few times, often gets confused about what he said, disagreeing with himself, changing his mind or simply talking rubbish. But we should all know that it is part of the job – to make people believe in the team is probably much harder than putting every puzzle on the pitch in the right place. He is not helping himself with latest claims about players that may become Poles after just few years in our league and country – Manuel Arboleda is the latest ‘victim’ as mixed reports suggest that he is interested in playing for Poland. It is worth noting that Smuda firstly closed the door for foreign footballers but seeing the limitations on certain positions in his team, changed his mind. He may not be forgiven for letting them play though as Poles remember recent short-time similar acts involving Roger Guerreiro or Emanuel Olisadebe – that proved successful only at the beginning.

I sincerely doubt that Smuda is aware that his status changed with new year. He still has eighteen months to make his team work and play like he wants to, like Polish people want but from now on his job will be rated more strictly, although Smuda will argue that he already had a rough time with Polish media and fans. As a typical nonsense talker, he must become now much wiser with his words and finally be aware that for fans, every single bit that comes from his mouth counts. After more than a year in charge, people now expect improvement, on and off the pitch, with so many things going simply wrong for Polish national team. It is about time to make the atmosphere healthier around the squad and football generally, if we want to achieve any success during EURO 2012. Smuda may be the person to lead that positive change.

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