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Monday, January 23, 2012

Polish Eagles Euro Quest : Is glory awaiting the Red and White?

With the vocal backing of their own supporters driving them on,  Poland will hope  to make a big impression on home soil in just their second UEFA European Championship tournament.

2008 was the 1st time Poland played in an European Championship despite having ended up as semi finalist at the FIFA world cup in 1974 and 1982. However the championship didn't turn out the way it was expected for Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker's side as they exited after the group stage with only a point scored over then hosts Austria. Failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup set tone for a Polish coach to take over and certainly it had to be Franciszek Smuda for whom the job was waiting for no less than 15 years. However it is all a far cry from their heyday of the 1970's and early 1980's. Yet with a squad including many players not even born then and some recent positive friendly results combined with home comforts could bring the best out of an average Polish side.

Franciszek Smuda
Franciszek Smuda is certainly befitting to take his Polish side into a tournament as co-hosts. His exploits include the champions league group stage with  Wisla Krakow and most recently the Europa league group stage entry with Lech Poznan. While these may not be big feathers in the eyes of many a football followers his 1st stint with national side has been more than beneficial. Positive results in friendlies against Argentina, Germany and South Korea though have instilled confidence in the side , the Polish team's performances have a to improve a great deal if they would need to go beyond the group stages at EURO2012 something which Smuda acknowledges.

Direct qualification into the tournament as hosts while gives Poland their 2nd chance to compete in a tournament which is considered by some to be better than the World Cup in terms of quality, lack of competitive games in the form of qualification matches certainly is something that could come back to hurt  the Polish squad. While they have shown that they can be brilliant at times, lack of consistency would also come back to haunt them. Their last friendly against Hungary though might paint a picture of a good result, on the field the story was completely different. Positive attack up front but lacklustre defending at the back was something Smuda should really be worried about. Hungary didn't up the ante for a minute and a 2-1 result was carved out for the Poles unconvincingly. Smuda's concern along with his back 4 would be the white and red's ability in dealing with set pieces. 

Smuda needs to marshall his resources well so that the best players are on the field. His policy of playing only those with a lot of club playing time has backfired many a times. The 11 players do not have adequate replacements and  an injury to a couple of them will be no less than a panic situation. Smuda might still be in a confused state as to who plays in the middle of the defence. With Damien Perquis getting his Polish citizenship in September Smuda's problems might have been eased temporarily. Marcin Komorowski is another lad whom Smuda tried in the middle of the defence but his performances didn't instill confidence. Playing him in the left side didn't disappoint Smuda and for Jabub Wawrzyniak the biggest rival on the left side of  defence , will be his club colleague. 

Likely Starting 11 for Poland

Come June 8th when Poland play their 1st game against Greece, Smuda will in all probability field the above 11. Lewa'ski, Blas'ski, Peszko and Brozek all select themselves without a doubt. Playing Dudka as a defensive midfielder rather than as a full back gives Smuda the option to play an additional defender in a team. Poland's defending will most certainly be under scrutiny in the Euro championship . While it might start with a 4-2-3-1,opposition attacks can force Dudka to fall back making the structure a 5-1-3-1. Already starting with a more defensive lineup, pushing back Dudka will kill the attacking play Smuda might be hoping for. Szczeny will for sure need to be a wall between the posts coz defensive lapses will see them packing their bags quite early in the tournament.

Players To Watch  Out:

Robert Lewandowski

The whole of the country would be hoping that this man can lead them to a decent finish. Lewandoski has been Poland's answer to striking goals. His recent seasons with Borrusia Dortumund have made him a more clinical finisher(though he plays as an attacking midfielder) scoring on 20 occasions in less than a couple of seasons while his record with the national team hasn't been bad where he has netted 13 times from 40 outings. Lewa'ski has been considered on par with Polish top scorer and legend Wlodzimierz 'Wlodek' Lubanski. Lewa'ski is good both on the ground and in the air. And with Smuda playing with only one striker in front of goal , Lewa'ski responsibilities only double.

Jakub Blaszczykowski aka Kuba

Blas'ski is another player on whom Poland will be mightily dependent not only as a midfielder but also as the national team's captain . The fact the Blas'ski plays for the same club as Lewa'ski gives both the players a big chance to transform their club chemistry onto the international scene. Blas'ski mainly plays as an attacking midfielder and does create a lot of chances for the forwards and Lewa'ski would be greatly benefited having Blas'ski on the same side of the pitch. 

Wojciech Szczesny

Being only 21 years old has been no deterrent for Wojciech Szczeny who has made the goal keeping spot his own both at his club Arsenal and with the national team ahead of compatriot Fabianski. Tactically Szczesny has been improving each game but lack of experience with the national team could come as a problem for this young polish who will also have to deal with a fragile defence. However there can be no doubt that he will be Smuda's no.1 man in between the posts come the start of the championship.

Group A with Russia, Greece and Czech Republic though doesn't seem intimidating, the going can get quite tricky. Poland open their campaign against Greece and a bad start might end their title hopes at the end of the very first game. While some might consider that Poland having a bad defence is a big myth, for me personally it will be the difference if Poland will have to proceed beyond the group stages. The Polish eagles have only a game let against Portugal in February before the coach makes up his mind as to who will represent the country. Only Euro 2012 will tell if the coach's 2 years of plans work or are wasted. Can they achieve what the greats had achieved for the Poles way back in the 70's and 80's ?

Continue your EURO 2012 journey

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