18 paź 2012

Draw with England means Fornalik's obligation

There was hardly any joy at the last whistle for Waldemar Fornalik - barely a smile rose on his face as he marched towards Roy Hodgson to exchange firm handshake. Poland manager probably knew that he was the closest to bringing down 39-year-long complex of whole country, a ghost of Wembley 1973 whose soul hang on every bigger game the nation had to play since then.

After all, there were talks about whole generation brought up on Jan Tomaszewski's magical night, lousy defending and non-existent attacking play long forgotten.

If not several factors - details, such as Joleon Lescott's back - a different one could be raised on the legend of Piszczeks, Lewandowskis and Gliks. 

How many times in recent years we have heard that this is the right moment to beat England? When Arkadiusz Głowacki put the ball in his own net? When Tomasz Frankowski equalized at Old Trafford with acrobatic volley? When Janusz Wójcik - now manager shortened to only first letter of his surname - promised so in 1999?

Few have praised Roy Hodgson's England at Euro 2012, a side build on solidness and schemes, but their start to this World Cup 2012 qualification campaign was a good one, bar unimpressive draw with Ukraine at home. That was also the reason why all the talk about possible positive result in Warsaw was forbidden.

Even more - the excuses were already written down following Tuesday's downpour of embarrassment, as Waldemar Fornalik preferred to move the game for next month rather than the following day. Was he so uncertain regarding his team? Maybe he wanted to wait for Błaszczykowski - just back from injury, out of fitness and form possibly - and not hand out starts to unconvincing Grosicki and unproven Wszołek?

The question of his and team's ambition was long gone when the players sang their hearts out with the national anthem, followed by maybe vulgar but motivational scream of stand-in captain, Marcin Wasilewski - something Kuba Błaszczykowski undoubtedly has never done nor will. The image was clear from the first moment they stepped out on muddy pitch - this was a team.

Not three individuals pulling their team-mates forward, not Lewandowski and Piszczek only but also Glik, Grosicki, Krychowiak, Polanski and Tytoń. Each of them played their trade, their roles, which Fornalik made understandable to the point at which England was pushed back to own goal with some despairing clearances.

Much was said about Hodgson's men taking sleeping pills to have a rest ahead of rescheduled game on Wednesday and - afterwards - English fans joked that they will need the same cure following predictable, slow and overall poor performance from their side. As much of their incompetence and averageness was down to all the problems ex-Liverpool manager had and has, as to Fornalik's players and the way they played. 

Many would argue but it wasn't a single factor that made the difference between yesterday's performance and the ones at Euro - it was much more. United squad, balanced in every department, with a own soul but the most significant disparity was in patience of players and manager. Patience that rose from confidence in the manager and own abilities - to the moment in which not even a goal conceded has stopped Fornalik's men from going forward, has not brought them down. Only made them more focused and stubborn in their attacks.

Arguably, it was hardly a classic. Tempo of the game was dictated by the conditions and everything that had happened before the actual kick-off of the match. But this game is all about adapting to certain situations and Poles did it way better - sat deep and made England pass sloppily to well-positioned Krychowiak and Polanski. Gave the impression that opponent's full-backs can move forward, only to expose the space behind them with clever movement and combinations of Grosicki and Piszczek on the right side. 

Situations followed - maybe not as clear as the whole stadium wanted - but given the number of them and the ease at which Lewandowski freed himself from the opponents, covered the ball and (not too often) passed it around, Poland was impressive at going forward. This wasn't a game of rising heroes in Fornalik's new team - the one whose only names resemble of the Smuda's - but it was a match, an opportunity to create a united side. Even without several certain starters, Fornalik proved what his predecessor failed at - there is much more to this team than the twelve players Smuda craved about before Euro 2012.

This is not only a statement from Fornalik and his team - this is only an obligation made to Polish fans. Something must follow, something must be build on the most positive result of recent year or two, that Poland have finally stepped up to the occasion of competitive game and not only was still standing at the end but was nearer the win than their more famous rivals. 

Fornalik knows that, he is hardly a man that would fly away or lose his head - hence the lack of satisfaction on his face when the last whistle went. The mission just got bigger, just got real. The one-all draw in Warsaw has given a faith that the 2014 World Cup in Brazil may be not that far from our dreams as getting out of the group of Greece, Czech Republic and Russia. In fact, it may be even closer.

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