If only Artjoms Rudnevs had not have his mind set up on short holidays before heading to Germany for the new challenge in the Bundesliga, reaction in Poland over the friendly with Latvia could have been much harsher than it was in reality. The Ekstraklasa's best scorer this season was given two or three chances that he knows how to convert into goals, as Franciszek Smuda's worries over his back four still continue.
It took only some short time pressing from Latvian midfielders to win the ball back and then pass it to the wings, where Grzegorz Wojtkowiak and Sebastian Boenisch had much sterner test than they hoped for. Questions of quality and stamina arose as the latter survived seventy-two minutes, at the end looking breathless and not quite aware of where he is.
Not that he was running up and down all game long, no. Boenisch was hardly present at the other end, while on own half he should have done better on couple of occasions - the left-back maybe has not looked unfit but surely he will not be capable of matching the much more demanding tempo of Euro 2012 group games.
Today's news about Jakub Wawrzyniak's injury were a worry, though fortunately overstated, as Legia's defender said that if he was to play the game tomorrow, he would be okay, only needing pain eliminating injections. But for him, it was the toughest of seasons, despite ending miserable on the fourth place in the Ekstraklasa. He played 53 games, something unusual for footballers playing in domestic league, not used to the regime so well known abroad.
Muscle injury could be a result of long season, but, as critics suggest, also an effect of tougher training sessions applied during the pre-tournament camp in Lienz, Austria. Franciszek Smuda admitted that he wanted to give the first group of players - the ones that joined the squad from the very beginning of the preparations - a chance to rebuild their stamina, pace and power during last seven days, adding that no one will be treated individualistic and his team will work as one.
That was indeed very risky and only the game with Latvia showed the difference in the stages of preparations in players who had various last year - while Wawrzyniak has over fifty games in his legs, Boenisch only just couple of months ago returned after long injury. It is almost impossible to rebuild Werder's left-back qualities in such short time and the Latvia game showed that he is nowhere near the class for which he was chased to be given the Polish citizenship.
Smuda's plan of preparations was risky even with the place of the camp, while going to Turkey with small part of the team to prepare mentally, give them a rest was pointless if then he wanted to put players through sessions that may cause injuries. Thankfully, Smuda admitted that this is the end of the physical work and balls will finally be used this time. One of the players asked about the differences between the trainings of Smuda and Beenhakker in the final preparations, he couldn't even show the gap - the Dutch manager believed only in work on small pitches, while Polish coach is used to more traditional set-up.
With Boenisch form nor rising in the tempo Smuda surely hoped for and recent injury problems troubling Wawrzyniak, Poland is without two first-choice options at left-back and the manager will surely look at the possibility of playing Dariusz Dudka there, if his form allows. The defensive midfielder's position is fairly safe, if nothing happens to Polanski of course, while the long shot option remains Marcin Kamiński, who described himself as the man who may step up in this role in Smuda's eyes. Yet his inexperience and relatively small chances of staying with the squad for the Euro may eliminate the choice even before the ball is kicked for the first time.
Match with Latvia was not costly for the team in terms of injuries, yet Smuda's training sessions are beginning to be much more dangerous. Part of his job is to adjust to how the players look in training and what they need but, for the time being, Poland manager sticks strictly to the plan, maybe even ignoring the data he is receiving after each session. After all, we are talking about the man who uses laptop only as a pad for his tea mug.