I must admit that for the last year or so, I was very critical of the Polish national team. Not that they didn’t deserve it, as you all probably know from previous posts on their form and decisions of coach Franciszek Smuda. We were not scoring goals, not defending well at all and it wasn’t even about results but performances in general – the defeat in Lithuania, that awful draw in Greece, failure against France… even that win against Argentina’s C or D squad wasn’t convincing at all.
But after this international break Smuda has finally something he can be proud of as his side stretched the undefeated run to five games and is looking more with confidence at the challenges versus Italy and Russia that are ahead. Though the victories against rivals such as Georgia and Belarus were and rightly should be expected, the draws against mighty Germany and always dangerous South Korea must be noticed even by the critics. Like the one who is actually writing these words.
Franciszek Smuda may be given more breathing space after pointless trips from Europe to Asia and back that ended with success – the jet lag, even if there was one, did not hurt the players as much as the disastrous planning from Polish federation… though getting two good results in between long travels and in games played away… definitely, that made critics silent for a while.
And yet, there are more promising signs than bare results, though good ones. Kuba Błaszczykowski finally looks like a captain we expected him to be, enjoying maybe his best time in his international career so far, scoring and assisting. Robert Lewandowski just gave more arguments to believe that his fine start to the season at Borussia will also be helpful for the national side, while Damien Perquis and Eugen Polanski are showing why there was such rush around their Polish citizenship processes over the summer. I’m not even starting the discussion about goalkeepers, cause that wasn’t ever a worry for Smuda.
Yes, recent performances and results had to rise a smile on the face of even the biggest critic, skeptic and moaner – without a question, I could be an example of one. But this is not about wishing the team badly, nor it ever was, as even behind some of the harshest words fans remained… fans. We want Polish national team to succeed, perform and win games at Euro. The signs were promising before (run of six undefeated games year ago), but nobody could convince me that draw against Bosnia reserves was something we could build on, eighteen months before Euro starts.
Franciszek Smuda still has some questions to answer over his team and job, that won’t go away with couple of good results. Why his selection for defenders stopped among Polish players from Ekstraklasa but there might be an open doors left for Colombian Manuel Arboleda when and if he comes back to fine form at Lech Poznan, deciding that he wants to be a Pole? Why there are players not trusted, not given a chance while their performances in different leagues show they are worth a try? Why Smuda and his staff are putting their team against fans and media, something that hardly will be helpful in the last months of preparations?
Actually, the last question is the most important for the team, and it is the problem that has to be solved, although call ups send to Radoslaw Majewski, Tomasz Kupisz, Kamil Grosicki, Piotr Celeban, Sebastian Mila and few others wouldn’t do any harm to Smuda’s squad. At least the manager and always demanding public would know whether there is a point of making any proposals to the team.
But Smuda is not doing himself and the team any favors as players are missing the press time “by accident”, press passes are taken away from press for any sign of critique, press officer is lying or not answering questions directly, while you could almost feel how tense is the atmosphere between the coach and reporters when he finally decides to share a few words with the world. Yes, the fault is on both sides but everyone should remember what happened during World Cup in 2002, when the conflict between media and Polish squad rose to the point when members of the latter openly abused reporters.
The conflict must be solved rather sooner than later, as there are reports that it may push Smuda to hide his squad from public eyes before the tournament, somewhere in Germany. The critics won’t stay silent for too long, there are still issues on the pitch that are a big worry ahead of the Euro 2012, but if both sides stay away from vicious arguments, the team may win at least few fans back. It would be simply too sad if such unnecessary politics could overshadow the fact that some improvement was already made.