When answering questions at one of the last press conferences before the start of the tournament, Franciszek Smuda had to face one about pressure in his work, whether he and his team are struggling with it. The response was negative, albeit coming from a man unable to put one sentence together in calm matter, while Polish manager's face was all red. As the opening ninety minutes of Euro 2012 showed, Smuda was the one who allowed the stake to get to him, not his players.
This was easily seen in today's rare interview given to the press, as he nervously denied uncertainty and own reluctance in decision to leave all out-field subs unused during draw with Greece. "I have my own rules that always turn right for me and I can't do whatever someone tells me" - Smuda said - "I have to make decisions for myself, how I feel it."
Leaving his strange and out-of-touch comparison to the Champions League final aside, Smuda was asked whether he will make any changes to the side, apart from the most obvious one, involving banned Szczęsny and new crowd-favorite Tytoń. With a grim on his face, shaking head, he said: "I don't think there will be a lot of changes for Russia game, maybe one."
This leaves the possibility, or hope to those ten players that should be also hit by the comment that his starting XI, even if one of them is not putting a shift on the pitch, the rest will make up for him. But at least speculations can begin and there are several options for Smuda to consider, obviously keeping in mind own game and the way Russia played with Czech Republic.
Clearly, the only way to unsettle Russia is to stop their midfield trio, make them chase the ball, press them and minimize the space they can use for giving the ball higher up the pitch. This was exactly what Michal Bilek did at half-time, by introducing Tomas Hubschman, and this was exactly what Poland lacked in the second half against Greece. This is the lesson that has to be learned.
Dariusz Dudka is probably the most obvious answer - a very versatile player, that could play in few different roles, but it may be also his curse. As shown by Smuda before, he prefer to keep players like him available as a sub. But Dudka is also wise player, very aware tactically, even if moving the ball short would be a problem for him, and making him quite the same player to Polanski. It would also mean moving Murawski higher and, probably, Obraniak to the left wing in place Rybus could make. But if in that position Tomas Rosicky struggled against Russia, who could believe that the only player from Ekstraklasa would come out well? Even if he rarely showed this on Friday, Obraniak's cleverness would be useful in between the lines.
There is also option for Adrian Mierzejewski, a bit more clever and definitely more technically advanced than Dudka and Polanski are. But his work rate is low, and when he was tried in that position, it was obvious that at defensive tasks Mierzejewski looks less productive and helpful to the team. But he would be better at moving the ball whenever Poland recovers in possession. This is, however, risky move and Smuda is very doubtful to pick him out of his squad. Even less possible option is unproven Matuszczyk, despite being coach's favorite, what was confirmed by unlikely call-up for the tournament.
Of course, the biggest uncertainty is over Smuda's feeling of own strength - will he play to it, or just rightly judge Russians as the better side? This is the moment, when - again - we should be reminded about Smuda's stubbornness and after critique he faced after opening game over the subs, he may keep the shape and squad for the game. The formation was not discussed only because of players' influence - they pushed him to change it from 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 just over a year ago, and he will not risk unsettling them again.