I don’t get this question too often but last two games Poland played and won (1-0 twice, against Moldova and Norway) got me thinking – why everything I say about Franciszek Smuda’s team is so negative, sarcastic and ironic? Even when there is something positive, it gets out of me in the tone that rather is not nice and those of you all asking for predictions of Polish team for EURO 2012 get pessimistic answer. Even my father, with whom I’m watching most of the games, is puzzled why and when I’ve become probably the biggest critic Polish national team has. Or rather second place, first is for Jan Tomaszewski, obviously.
Well, let me tell you why.
I generally try to put aside what kind of person Smuda is, even though that it’s very hard to hide the fact that he is not and won’t ever be my favorite. I bet that in a chat he is optimistic and nice, he can make people laugh but I don’t get it how national team manager can say so many stupid things, changing his decisions and mind even more often that are not working well for team. The charm won him few media people that probably got Smuda the job following some fierce campaign in press and TV, but for me he is naïve person that get way too many decisions based only on a hunch or felling. They say it’s old school – for me it means nothing more than bad school.
But let’s get back to football – he could be Richard Keys, Andy Gray and Mubarak in one person but if the results and decisions would be right for me I couldn’t care less how he behaves. But the point is, my negativity rose with every game under his management not because Smuda turned out to be naïve but the team is going nowhere near the hype he has created and the expectations that rose among fans because of his words.
Look at the defence we have – has anything changed under his tenure for good? Do we look solid, confident and organized? In last two meaningful games, against disinterested sides like Ivory Coast and Norway, we had problems in moving our lines, battle in the air and we desperately need center-backs that are on European level. The only positive is, obviously, in goal as number of quality keepers Poland have lets us feel comfortable even when fourth choice Przemysław Tytoń (Roda Kerkrade) is our goalie. Even though with four quality goalkeepers we were second worse defence in Europe in 2010 and played only friendly games. We are leaking goals and it takes only thinking, smart side to get into our box and take advantage of countless mistakes made by those that goalkeepers have in front of them.
But, alright – Smuda was appointed with fame of rather attacking minded coach and our defence was always to suffer or be at least not as good as it could be but in favor of our play in front of opponents goal. I get it and when the decision was taken I understood that one but now, it seems for me that if something changed with our ball movement, play, counter-attacking it changed for worse. I seriously don’t want to be mean but Smuda is looking at several option and can’t stick to any of them for quite long and we just switch the systems, formations, partners up-front and most importantly the style. It all started with keeping possession, short-passing, quick movement and got to the moment where we count on single moment of brilliance or luck like in his two last games. Smuda may say that he lacks time, he tries a lot of different things, still can’t make his mind on selection but with the number of games he played we should demand at least two schemes that Polish squad is recognized for and dangerous from.
Leaders. Our team seriously lacks leadership. We can’t get that one from the bench as it was still untested and unproven how Smuda handles the pressure, substitutions and motivation talks before the games. After Norway game, he said that players couldn’t be motivated for a match that was played on empty stadium – I get this but how can he use it as an excuse for his lack of motivation skills and inability to get to his players minds? He kicked out Michał Żewłakow and Artur Boruc off the team and lost two natural born leaders that would give everything for the team. I’m not saying he hadn’t had his reasons but probably it is his fault at the start that those two felt so easy that they could steadily drink during international duty.
So he handed the captains armband to Kuba Błaszczykowski – up to the moment silent, smart and humble footballer that didn’t like to sound controversial at any time and most definitely wasn’t regarded as material for a leader. Can we see him shouting at others, leading the team when they are down or getting to the referee when it’s needed? I love him as a player and he is by far the best thing this squad have but Kuba Błaszczykowski is not and won’t ever be a leader on the pitch. Smuda maybe choose wrong but to be honest with him – he didn’t have more options besides him and we may suffer when the pressure and stake will get to them and the results will not be right.
Believe it or not but I have not been born negative and ever since I can remember I was passionate about international football, about Polish team, even with all those problems football in my country had and still has. All these moaning comes from the passion, at least that’s what I’m telling to myself, because if there is something that I want in the whole world is us to succeed on the international scene. But that’s also why I’m so pessimistic – I want it so much that I see every detail that is wrong, that might not work or most definitely will not work during EURO 2012. It’s my country, it’s my flag and even though I can’t be a bit optimistic about it, I will support the team and manager next year – I will have the believe but stripped from facts, details, proofs.
It was said at first that if this tournament will be any successful for us, it means that we should go all the way to semi-finals but lately I’ve observed that all the people want from the team is to get out of the group and then let us see what happens next. But if I have remember what kind of team Smuda is putting together, his work up to this moment, I’m not believing in that story of glory and even though for some the following will sound pessimistic and which I think it is at the very best realistic – in my opinion we are not getting out group and the story will go as it went on every big tournament I remember – opening game, must-win game and game for some pride.