12 wrz 2012

Two sides of an early glory

"I would like to thank fans for their outstanding support" - said Waldemar Fornalik following 2-0 win over Moldova, clearly forgetting about long booing that filled Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw several times throughout the evening, as Poland struggled to put even three passes together.

"99 percent of people can see who is the man in charge of the team, only few have a problem with that" - this was manager's reaction to question over Błaszczykowski's and Lewandowski's influence on his decisions and the squad.

There are like two realities in which the national team operates. In the first one, everything seems to be okay. Four points in opening two games shouldn't be regarded as bad result, especially with other results going also Poland's way. Out of four goals scored so far, Błaszczykowski was the author of two and provided an assist for third, showing his accuracy at crossing and composure when stepping up for penalty kick. Young players are being given a chance for once - Ariel Borysiuk starting last three games, while Kamil Glik playing last two from start to finish - while manager is not scared to change his tactics at half-time, re-adapt them in certain circumstances.

All rosy then? Not so. The other reality is the one fans observe and they look at recent comments of Błaszczykowski on Obraniak and his red card in Montenegro game ("We had the talk with him few before but now, once that had happened again, something should be done"), while Lewandowski - the other star of the squad - remains silent whenever asked a question by Polish journalists. As quiet he is on the pitch, now over 500 minutes without a goal for Borussia's striker since the one against Greece at Euro 2012 opening.

As with every game recently, win over Moldova gave more questions than answers - first half showed that 4-4-2 is far from the perfect system for Poland. Fornalik wanted his team to play the ball wide and provide crosses, even from deep positions, for Saganowski and Lewandowski to make use of them. That did not happen as set up play was too slow and allowing opposition to prepare themselves to handle everything that Poland threw at them. The only surprise they weren't prepared for was dive from Piszczek inside Moldova's box that allowed Błaszczykowski to open the scoreline.

Half time change - "tactical one", as Marek Saganowski explained his withdrawal for Waldemar Sobota - did not change much, as only Fornalik tried Mierzejewski in a role linking Lewandowski with two central midfielders. Polanski was at his poorest tonight, while Borysiuk rarely used his advantage of inch-perfect diagonal passes and that worked well only once, when Mierzejewski put Błaszczykowski through with nice ball from the edge of the box.

Something that will make Fornalik smile - apart from result, obviously - were the set pieces again. When Poland had their first corner after an hour mark, they created danger instantly. Marcin Wasilewski had his goal ruled out for offside at third, Glik's header went wide at fourth, while sixth gave a goal, even if the first cross was half-cleared. But whenever the ball was sent up from the spot, it was in the direct place, where it should be, where it was planned to land on Glik's or Wasilewski's head. The second goal of the night proved the improved level of organization in opponent's box in the second ball situation - four Fornalik's players were ready to convert the chance.

But that should not hide the fact, that for the large stages of the match, Moldova was the dominant side, passing the ball better around and after the restart Poles were reduced to despairing clearances from around own box to keep their account clean. Best chances of the first half fell to Suvorov and Picusciac, not Lewandowski or Saganowski. "The positioning attack is not only our weak side, it is like that for most of the sides" - said Borussia's striker afterwards. He has a point but that doesn't explain his negativity towards participation in this game for most of the ninety minutes. Usually so eager to offer himself for a ball, hold it up, create for others and not only for his own, Lewandowski had one fine move over the course of the game, one of the poorest he has played for the national side.

The most negative aspect of the game could be the fake prospect of progress that was underlined by Lewandowski, Piszczek, Wasilewski and the manager himself after the win. Surely, there are positives - even few more than the ones listed above - but Fornalik's honey moon should be over by now and there is no space for mistakes or try-outs anymore, like with 4-4-2 or playing the likes of Saganowski or Sobota. The next time Poles will fight for points to win a trip to Brazil in 2014, they will not have Suvorov or Picusciac against but Jermaine Defoe, Frank Lampard and rest of Roy Hodgson's team. Four points in two games are good result but surely England will put them in some perspective when the two sides meet in a few weeks time, much to Waldemar Fornalik's headache.

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