Two years and one day after Franciszek Smuda’s debut in the role of Poland’s coach, few would at least want to get answers to most obvious questions. Instead, Polish national team is still a puzzle and missing more than one piece.
Twenty-nine games in charge and Smuda hasn’t changed at all - he still reacts angrily to even the slightest critique, for example. There is a lot of it, sometimes it’s undeserved but fans are no fools and know their football well, they don’t like to be fooled. Of course, nobody expected Smuda to have his project finished by now, though hopes were high that the progress will be seen. Instead, there is as much chaos as there was on the first day in his new job, the one he wanted all his professional life.
Hungary game was no exception. After being well beaten by Italy on Friday, only odd few thousand show up in Poznan to watch Poland play with Hungary, to witness a performance that was nowhere near standards needed during European Championships. While after previous match Smuda stated that the lesson should be learned, same mistakes were repeated again all over the pitch – awful marking, inability to defend when opponents step up the tempo and inefficiency in front of the opponents goal.
A win is always a win, optimists will say. But wasn’t Smuda saying at the start of his work with the team that it is not about the results and more about performances of his team? Yes, in last sixteen games only three were lost, and especially last few months were more promising, but the situation around the team and inside it is more chaotic than many probably think. The chance that the success will come with the team involved unnecessarily by federation in conflict over lack of crest of new kits isn’t high.
It is understandable that Smuda tries to build a bond between himself and the team using this argument – the tactics of common enemy are well known in the world of football and Smuda will not back down, even if that means losing a large part of support that once helped him to reach current position. The question remains though, whether growing number of rows and misunderstandings between those involved in Polish most important team is exactly the thing everybody need at this stage.
Of course, each game brings are at least some positives – whether it is a confirmation of Szczęsny’s talent, Lewandowski’s technique, Błaszczykowski’s stubbornness and Piszczek’s raising class, there are numerous examples of performances that give fans more hope. But to be fair, we are yet to see a game in which Smuda’s players function well as a team, at both ends, in every department. Individuals can win you a game but not when our top performers won’t match the best players of most of the teams that will play against Poland next summer.
The Hungary game showed this – Błaszczykowski and Mierzejewski created both goals today but were kept very silent against stronger opponents from Italy. And when Prandelli’s side stepped up the tempo, Smuda’s team was lost easily with each and every pass that was exchanged by Italians – even tonight, when Hungary equalized, this was clearly seen. Latest results may be on Smuda’s favor but when one looks at the performances, there is the real picture of his team and it’s unfortunately painted chaotically.
There is less and less time for Smuda to make his side click and play like a team, not a bunch of individualist. He has less and less allies, with the federation also helping him to make enemies, not friends with everyone involved. The expectations were high two years ago when he took over, but the reality got to us and no one seems to be optimistic anymore, while any success achieved will be regarded as miracle than something worked out by the team. Even if that may not necessarily be true, that is the reputation Polish national team have these days.