Monday, November 17, 2014

Two players to miss Switzerland game

Two players will be unavailable for the Poland v Switzerland match.

Kamil Grosicki broke his arm during the last game and has undergone and operation on it. He is likely to be out of action for a few months.

Lukasz Piszczek is having problems with his spine and has complained of back pains. He has been excused from the squad to get treatment back at his club.

There is a lot of interest in the upcoming match. Friendly matches don't often draw the biggest audiences, but it seems Poland's recent good performances had drawn in the fans, with over 32 000 tickets already sold for Tuesday evening's game.

The stadium has a capacity of over 42 700

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lewandowski not hitting his mark for the national team

Despite coming off the back of a 4-0 victory away to Georgia, Poland's star player Robert Lewandowski failed to hit the back of the net. While many may disagree, I feel he is not doing enough for Poland.

Of course, his recent lack of goals for the Polish side is often defended by people who like to point to the amount of work he does on the pitch, drawing defenders to himself and providing assists, but is it not the main job of a striker to score goals?

'I score, therefore I am' should be a striker's motto, should it not? Is that not the main statistic coaches look at when looking for a forward?

Lewandowski has had 65 caps for the Polish team, and has 23 goals. Not a bad record, at first glance, but when you look again, you see it's not as impressive as it first seems. One key thing that defines a good striker from a great one, is the importance of the goals he scores and the kind of opposition he scores them against. It's easy to smash in a hat full of goals against a weak opponent, or score in meaningless matches.

When looking at Robert's statistics, it could be fair to say that he is not doing as well as we initially might have thought.

Let's examine them closer. First of all, it should be noted that Lewandowski did not make his debut until after Euro 2008. Even then, he wasn't playing in the first team in every match. It wasn't until his move to Borussia Dortmund and the road to Euro 2012 that 'Lewy' became a key figure in the Polish starting line up and was the first choice up front.

If you look at the competitive games Robert took part in, there were many important ones where he failed to get on the scoresheet. In fact, Lewandowski hasn't yet managed to score a goal against what could be considered a 'big nation.' The biggest nation that Robert hit the back of the net against was probably Greece at Euro 2012, and he also scored an equalizer at home to Montenegro. Outside of this, he has hit the back of the net in a lot of friendlies against sides such as Bulgaria, Belarus and Andorra. After the Euro in Poland and Ukraine, Lewy once again failed to score goals in the important qualifying games leading up to the World Cup. He ended the World Cup qualifying campaign with three goals, and two of those were penalties against San Marino.

The Euro 2016 campaign has started well for the Polish side, and Lewandowski has already hit four goals, except, all four were scored in the opening match against Gibraltar. He hasn't managed to hit the net against The Germans, Scots or Georgians, just like he couldn't against the likes of England and Ukraine. Unfortunately, it's games like these where a player of his caliber and status is needed most.

Of Lewandowski's 23 goals scored in a Poland shirt, 13 were scored in friendlies, and only 10 in competitive matches. Another alarming fact is that 'Lewy' has only netted competitive goals against four different nations, and two of them are made up predominantly of part timers. Below is a breakdown of the teams he scored goals against in matches for points.

4 goals v San Marino
4 goals v Gibraltar
1 goal v Greece
1 goal v Montenegro

Let's compare Lewandowski's record to a player such as Euzebiusz Smolarek. Remember, this isn't an argument over who is the better football players, since many would probably agree that Lewandowski is the best outfield player the country has had for many years. It's about who has done more for the national team, and this is where you'd have to favor Ebi.

Ebi Smolarek scored 20 goals in 47 games for Poland, but there were a lot of important ones among them. He was the top scorer in the Euro 2008 qualifiers with nine goals, including two big ones against Portugal. He was then the joint top scorer in the South African World Cup qualifiers with six goals.

Emmanuel Olisadebe before him was also responsible for some important goals. He scored 11 goals in 25 games for Poland. Oli only featured in the Polish first team for a short time, but it was largely down his his performances and goals at that time that Poland qualified for their first World Cup in 16 years. He scored eight goals in the qualifiers, including goals in both games against Ukraine and Norway, who were Poland's main rivals for qualification at the time. He later added another goal at the World Cup.

Yes these players have finished their international careers while Lewandowski still has a lot of time to improve on his record, and I hope he does. This is why I haven't even bothered mentioning some of the previous legends from the glory days. So far the two retired players mentioned did more for the Polish side in 47 and 25 caps than Lewandowski has done in 65.

Once again, this argument is not about debating whether they were better than Lewandowski, it's whether Lewandowski, in all his glory and club success, has done as much for the Polish national team as they did, and the answer to that so far is, no he hasn't. While the other guys may have had problems with their club careers, they played well for Poland. Lewandowski seems to be doing the opposite. A lack of goals is a lack of goals, and if Robert is better at playing deeper, then perhaps he should play in midfield when he gets called up to the national team, not up front.

Polish team fail to stay in sync during national anthem

Here is a clip of the national team getting ahead of themselves and failing to stay in sync with the Mazurek Dabrowski melody before Friday evening's game.

video by Naciarz Plock [edited]

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ketsbaia to leave Georgia post after Poland game!

Back in September, Georgian national team coach Temuri Ketsbaia stated in a press conference that he would consider his position after the nation's next two results (against Scotland and Poland).

Now just a day before the match against Poland, Ketsbaia has made up his mind, stating in a press conference today that he will resign as manager of Georgia after his side's match against Poland, no matter what the result.

"Whether we win, draw or lose, nothing will change my decision now. No matter what the score, I will be leaving the national team after this game. Tomorrow's match against Poland is my last as the coach of the Georgian team."

Do you think this gives Poland an advantage?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Analyzing the opposition: Georgia

On Friday evening, Poland will face Georgia in Tbilisi, but how tough of an opponent will the opposition be?

Here are some basic facts about the Georgian national team.


Georgia had their first match in 1990, while still under the Soviet Union. They have existed as a national football team for just nearly 25 years.

Performance so far

The Georgian side has never qualified for any international football competition. They first played in competitive matches during the Euro 96 qualifiers, where they finished third, behind the Germans and Bulgarians. In World Cup 98 they were one place lower, but level on points with Poland. In the Euro 2000 qualifiers they finished bottom of their group, managing only one win in 10 games. They finished 3rd in the World Cup 2002 qualifiers, behind Italy and Romania. Since then they have always finished bottom or second from bottom.

Past notable past players

The country has produced some high quality players in the past. Notable names include Levan Kobiashvilli (most capped), Kakha Kaladze, Shota Arveladze and Temuri Ketsbaia, who is currently the Georgian national team coach, as has been since November 2009.

Current notable players

Georgia don't currently have the kind of names they had in the past. Kahka Kaladzie played for AC Milan, Kobiashvilli spent most of his time in the German Bundesliga [mostly at Schalke], while Arveladze became a fan favorite at Ajax and Glasgow Rangers. Their current coach Ketsbaia was a vital part of the Newcastle United side back in the late 90's. Now you don't see such big name clubs when looking at the Georgian squad, with the best players featuring in the Russian and Ukrainian leagues. Those who follow these leagues may recognize such names as Jaba Kankava (Dnipro), Gia Grigalava (Anzi Makhachkala) and Jano Ananidze (Spartak Moscow), but they are certainly not renowned names. There is one player in the squad from the Polish Ekstraklasa who might be more recognizable to Polish fans, Jagiellonia's Nika Dzalamidze.

Past meetings with Poland

Poland and Georgia have met before, during the 1998 World Cup qualifiers. Poland won the home game 4-1, but Georgia later returned the favor in the Tbilisi where they triumphed 3-0, with current coach Ketsbaia getting on the scoresheet. Their only other meeting was their most recent one, with Poland defeating Georgia 1-0 in a friendly match in Lubin just over three years ago.


To summarize, it appears Georgia were at their strongest in the late 90's, and still a a decent side in in the early 2000's. Since then, they have always struggled in qualifications, finishing near the bottom of their group. The retirements of some of the names mentioned (past notable players) has weakened them further, but despite this, they mustn't be taken lightly.

So far in this qualifying campaign they have lost two out of their three matches, but only by one goal. Ireland needed a late winner in Tbilisi from Celtic man Aiden McGeady to take the win, while Scotland only noted a 1-0 victory at Ibrox thanks to an own goal.

One thing is for sure, the Georgian team are not here to be the whipping boys of the group (that's reserved for Gibraltar). While qualification is highly unlikely for them, they will make things as difficult as possible for their opponents.

Georgian defender: Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world

Georgian defender Guram Kashia, who currently plays for Dutch club Vitesse in the Eredivise, spoke to the Georgian press about his side's upcoming game against Poland.

"Poland is a very strong team but we must think only about a win and picking up three points. It's all up to us, none us can play below par."

He also commented on Poland's most known player, Robert Lewandowski.

"A player like him can always cause trouble in our penalty area. I don't like playing against guys like that. Lewandowski is definitely one of the best strikers in the world."

Nawalka, Szczesny and Lewandowski comment ahead of Georgia match

Adam Nawalka, Wojciech Szczesny and Robert Lewandowski commented on Poland's upcoming match against Georgia during their latest press conference.

Adam Nawalka: For the first time, everybody I have called up is fit and healthy and practically all of them started in the first team for their clubs. All of my players are ready for this match. The reason there are more players called up than normal is because we have a friendly match a few days later. We're going to a very difficult place and we know it is going to be a difficult match. Despite this we want to return with three points. Our opponents have an interesting team, they represent a high football etiquette and have some talented individuals. We must remember they had narrow defeats against Ireland and Scotland.  

Wojciech Szczesny: It will definitely be more difficult for me to keep my concentration for 90 minutes. I hope to have very little work in this match. The less shots they have on goal, they less chance of them actually scoring one.

Robert Lewandowski: It will be a difficult match on a difficult terrain, where even strong teams like France and Spain struggled. The Georgians like to play defensively and wait for that once chance. We scored a goal against Scotland but didn't follow up on that. If we score an early goal in Tbilisi, we must try to score again.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nawalka completes squad for two upcoming internationals

Poland coach Adam Nawalka has completed the Poland squad for the two upcoming international games against Georgia and Switzerland.

Nawalka had already called up the foreign based portion of the squad. Today he called up eight players from the Ekstraklasa, with four of them bring from Legia Warszawa.

The players added to the squad today are Lukasz Broz, Tomasz Jodlowiec, Michal Zyro, Michal Kucharczyk, Sebastian Mila, Maciej Gajos, Rafal Janicki and Karol Linetty.

Here is the complete squad for the matches against Georgia and Switzerland

Goalkeepers: Artur Boruc (AFC Bournemouth), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal FC)

Defenders: Kamil Glik (Torino FC), Artur Jedrzejczyk (FK Krasnodar), Paweł Olkowski (FC Koln), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Lukasz Szukała (Steaua Bukareszt), Thiago Cionek (Modena FC), Lukasz Broz (Legia Warszawa), Rafal Janicki (Lechia Gdansk)

Midfielders: Kamil Grosicki (Stade Rennes), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla FC), Krzysztof Maczynski (Guizhou Renhe), Maciej Rybus (Terek Grozny), Piotr Zieliński (Empoli FC), Tomasz Jodlowiec, Michal Zyro, Michal Kuchaczyk (all Legia Warszawa), Maciej Gajos (Jagiellonia), Sebastian Mila (Slask Wroclaw), Karol Linetty (Lech Poznan)

Forwards: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Lukasz Teodorczyk (Dynamo Kiev)

A few of the calls up may be a surprise, but it is important to remember that the second game is a friendly match, so some of the names may have been added for that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How well do soccer clubs treat their fans?

The following piece of writing is not strictly related to Polish soccer, but it does have a bit on Polish football in it, so I have decided to put it up here.

While still studying sports journalism I once wrote an essay comparing football fan culture to religion. Who are we kidding? To many fans, football is a religion. Take Christianity for example, and compare it to football fanaticism. A good Christian will make sure they go to Church on a weekly basis, much like the football fan will attend his team’s home games (and probably some away ones too) weekly or fortnightly. A Christian will make sure they dress up nicely, in Church clothing, as will a fan, except the appropriate wear would probably be his or her team’s football kit, or at least the shirt. Then there are the hymns that the Christian will sing during the hour they spend in Church, just like the fan, who will recite hymns of a different nature, plus a few chants here or there, maybe with some explicit content.

Obviously the cultures are a little different, but the worship and devotion are on a very similar level. Football fans really do give their hearts and souls to their clubs. All you have to do is look in to the stands, or watch the camera as it pans around the stadium during a live televised match. There are thousands upon thousands of fans on their feet, living and breathing every single moment of the game.

This brings up a question. Since these fans are so loyal, like a dog who would stay with his master no matter how bad things got (see Rangers fans, Fiorentina fans and others), do the football clubs show them the respect they deserve?

Jose Mourinho made some controversial comments recently (not unusual for him), attacking his own teams fans for not being supportive enough during a home game.

Mourinho is a great coach, there’s no doubt about it, but not only does he demand a lot from his players, he demands a certain standard of support from the fans too. He has criticized Chelsea fans for not supporting their team enough. Most recently, he criticized them at Stamford Bridge, after his Chelsea side defeated QPR.

“At this moment it’s difficult to play at home because playing here is like playing in an empty stadium” said Mourinho.

He went on to say

“When we scored was when I realised, ‘woah, the stadium is full. Good’.”

This wasn’t the first time Mourinho had criticized Chelsea fans for being quiet, and he has been seen on a number of occasions, willing fans in the stadium to make more noise during games.

What makes his criticism even more surprising is that Mourinho spent three years at Real Madrid. While Madrid fans may not necessarily be known for being quiet, it has been suggested that the Bernabeu is like a theatre, and people go there to sit back and be entertained. They come to see a spectacle, not make noises and sing songs.

Mourinho’s comments raise a deeper issue though. Who are these football fans to football clubs? To Jose Mourinho, they are obviously there to help the team out and support them, but surely the argument could be raised that if a supporter pays for a ticket, they have a right to enjoy the match as they please. They aren’t being paid to be there, they are paying, so it’s not their duty to do anything, it’s the duty of the players, who are being paid, and they’re being paid an awful lot of money.

The way football clubs treat their fans differs, depending on the club.

In Poland for example, back in 2005, there was a situation where Legia Warszawa wanted to buy Pawel Kaczorowski [you might remember him]. He played for their fierce rivals Lech Poznan. The fans did not want him at the club, not only because he played for their rivals, but because he had insulted Legia on a number of occasions while playing for Poznan. The club’s owners decided to bring the player in anyway, and it resulted in Kaczorowski being booed, whistled and even getting objects thrown at him during some games. It didn’t take long before the club decided the player had to be sold, but his initial transfer to the club showed that Legia were deaf to the cries of their fans not to bring him there in the first place.

At a club like Lazio, things are a little different. Lilian Thuram, who played for Parma at the time, was being considered by the club from Rome. Thuram was unsure of joining the club however, having fears over racism.

“A coloured player must think twice before going to Lazio” said Thuram.

While visiting Lazio, four of the club’s ‘head fans,’ members of the club’s ultra group known as Irriducibili, were allowed in to the training ground to speak to the French defender. They wanted to reassure him that he would have no problems if he joined.

Thuram eventually chose to move to Juventus, but the fact that the ultra fans, who wanted the player to play for the club, were allowed access to speak with him and try to convince him to join, shows the close knit and mutually respectful relationship the club has with its fans.

The point I’m making here is that sometimes it seems fans are overlooked by football clubs. Football is a big business, with huge amounts of money going to people involved with it, from the players to the coaching staff, to other staff members involved with the clubs, and that doesn’t cover the money being made by TV stations, presenters etc. The ones who make no money out of it are the fans, yet they still turn up to these games and pay their clubs (by buying the tickets, club merchandise etc). 

For this reason, it might be an idea, every now and then, for clubs to consider what their fans have to say. If they want to make a controversial signing, perhaps let the fans vote on the issue [as you can at Barcelona, if you are a member, although there is a long waiting list). Perhaps some fans might be a bit quiet during a football match, but that could be down to the team playing badly. In all fairness, it should be the millionaires running around the pitch that give the paying fans something to cheer for, not the other way round.