Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Analyzing the current state of the national team

I might have been one of few people who was both delighted and weary at the same time after Poland's win over Germany. One the hand, it was an historic win, so it would almost have been a crime not to celebrate it, but on the other, most honest fans would admit that the Polish team had a lot of luck in that game.

I wanted to wait until the match against Scotland before making any conclusions about the current state of the team. So far the national team has only played three competitive matches. The Gibraltar match was never going to tell us anything, the Germany match showed the team can win games when they pour their heart in to it, but if nothing else, the Scotland match reminded us of the Poland team were are used to. As badly as the Germans may have started the qualifications, it won't surprise many if they get themselves back in to gear when injured players return and top the group. This means we could have the scenario that we expected before the qualifications began - Poland, Scotland and Ireland all fighting for the second and third positions. If this situation does occur, it means Poland have four very important matches to play against their two British isle rivals, and have drawn their first match of those four at home.

While Poland may have defeated the Germans, and defended like their lives were on the line, their defensive display a few days later reminded fans why they often complain about the back line being the team's weakest link. The last match, and round, really put things in to prospective. Poland struggled to break down a sturdy but distinctly average Scottish side, while the Germans drew at home to Ireland, emphasizing again how poor their form currently is, and taking a little more shine off Poland's win against them.

The truth is, if we look at the situation honestly, Poland have not had a single great game in this qualifying campaign yet. They've had an outstanding result, but despite it, the match itself was very one sided in favor of the world champions. As much as I don't like bringing up the past over and over, it was no Poland v Portugal, where not only did that side beat the Portuguese team full of world class players from top sides, they completely outplayed them throughout the 90 minutes. Here we've seen the demolishing of an amateur side, a win over a great side in poor form with half their first team injured, and a draw at home to a distinctly average team.

When you look at it like that, the excitement wears off a little. It's still too early to tell what is in store for Poland. Their on pitch performance hasn't indicated much apart from the fact that they can bang in the goals against lowly teams, they can beat a weakened top side when they're in poor form and their possession football leaves a lot to be desired, with the defence still making basic mistakes. Let's face it, if not for the fortunate victory over the Germans, we wouldn't be too positive about what we've seen so far, so let's not allow that game to cloud our minds and paint a false glorified picture of what we have. It's an okay start results wise and the performances have been reasonable at most.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Poland's late attack not enough in 2-2 draw with Scotland

Poland's late surge was not enough to grab all three points, and they had to settle for a point in their 2-2 draw with Scotland at the National Stadium in Warszawa.

Krzysztof Maczynski, who replaced injured Tomasz Jodlowiec in the starting lineup, scored the opener in the 11th minute, beating the Scottish goalkeeper with a low shot from outside the penalty box after a mistake by Scottish defender Alan Hutton led to the goal.

The Scottish national team held most of the possession during the first 45 minutes, and equalized in the 18th minute after poor defending from Lukasz Piszczek and Lukasz Szukala led to Shaun Maloney's close range goal.

Scotland took a surprising lead in the 57th minute after a free-kick that was tipped-in by Steven Naismith just inches away from Wojciech Szczesny. Poland did manage to strike back in the 76th minute after a fantastic pass by Artur Jedrzejczyk found Arkadiusz Milik, who without hesitating, rocked a powerful shot into the back of the net.

In the late stages of the match, it was all Poland, who were looking to score the third goal. Robert Lewandowski by Scottish goalkeeper David Marshall before Kamil Grosicki struck the post.

Poland: Szczęsny - Piszczek, Szukala, Glik, Jedrzejczyk - Grosicki (89. Zyro), Krychowiak, Maczynski, Sobota (62. Mila) - Milik, Lewandowski.

Pre-game: Poland vs. Scotland (Game-time 2:45pm est)

The Polish national team hopes to continue its hot trend when they take on Scotland at the National Stadium in Warszawa today. Game-time 2:45pm est.

Projected starting lineup: Szczesny - Piszczek, Glik Szukala, Wawrzyniak - Grosicki, Krychowiak, Maczynski, Rybus - Milik, Lewandowski.

Team notes (Poland):
Tomasz Jodlowiec is out with an ankle injury.

Team notes (Scotland):
Center-back Grant Hanley is out with a knee injury. He played 90 minutes vs. Georgia on Saturday.

Here are some pre-games notes:
Poland's all-time record vs. Scotland: 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses.
Poland's last win vs. Scotland: 1-0, Zbigniew Boniek scored the lone goal on May 5, 1980 in Poznan.
The last time the two sides met: 1-0 for Scotland on March 5, 2014 in Warszawa.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jodlowiec out for Scotland qualifier; who should replace him?

Polish national team midfielder Tomasz Jodlowiec will miss tomorrow's European qualifier against Scotland with an ankle injury, according to several Polish media outlets.

The 29-year-old was a key figure in the central part of the midfield alongside Grzegorz Krychowiak during Poland's 2-0 win over Germany on Saturday. So, who should replace Jodlowiec against Scotland?

Adam Nawalka has two options -- either go with Sebastian Mila or Krzysztof Maczynski. If he decides to play more offensive and a different type of game than they did against Germany, then Mila is the answer. But, Nawalka isn't afraid roll the dice so it wouldn't be a surprise if he started his former player at Gornik Zabrze next to Krychowiak.

Who should replace Jodlowiec in your opinion?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Reactions after Poland's 2-0 win over Germany

Zbigniew Boniek: "When I saw the fans coming into the stadium I thought to myself that it would be good if they are not sad when they return home. The statistics pointed to Germany, they seemed more mature in the game, but football is a game where such factors as collectivity and commitment play a role. We want to go to France and we are not stopping here."

Adam Nawalka: "When you play against the reigning world champions you also need a bit of luck.We made a small step, but let's not be too euphoric. In such games a squad gains its identity. I hope this will be the beginning of a new road for the national team. We play Scotland on Tuesday and this is our focus now."

Lukasz Piszczek: "We are ecstatic. Our people have waited a long time for this. We were defending deep but waited for our chances to break.We had a bit of luck as well, but we wrote history today. We have another game on Tuesday but today we will party."

Robert Lewandowski: "We are delighted with the win .We played like a team and hopefully this win will give us a boost and it will improve our game. We hoped for a draw, but we got the win and now we have to turn our focus to another important game against Scotland."

Source: Yahoo Sport/Polsat Sport

Watch: Szczesny's performance vs. Germany

Germany win doesn't mean much, in the grand scheme of things

The historic victory over Germany last night was fantastic, and it was fantastic for two reasons.

1/ It was the first time Poland have ever beaten the Germans in a competitive match [or any match for that matter], hence why it's historic.

2/ However you spin it, Poland beat the world champions, and a side who have not lost a qualifying matches since 2007.

It's a great feeling to defeat old foes and break a negative record that haunted our nation, but if Poland is to have a winning mentality, they must stop thinking about this victory as soon as possible.

When Poland puts on a good performance, it's beaten to death by the media, over and over again. The 1-1 draw at Wembley back in 1973, is still spoken about today. Then there's those two World Cup third places, the Olympic silver medal from 1992, or more recently, the 2-1 win over Portugal under Leo Beenhakker.

Yes, these were all great achievements, but you're only as good as your last game. If the Polish team fails to beat Scotland on Tuesday, then the result with Germany, as impressive and historic as it was, will almost be for nothing. This win against Germany must be taken as a bonus, not a crack filler, as the Portuguese victory was. Back then, Poland had a terrible start to the Euro 2008 qualifiers, and had to beat Portugal. Right now, they are not in this position. If they lose or even draw with Scotland, the hard work they put in to last night's match will be wasted.

Let's look at other aspects. Those who saw the game and are willing to be honest, know we were lucky. Poland produced very little in the first half, and were also on the back foot for most of the second half. Don't get me wrong, it was the only way they could play. They were never going to dominate the world champions, so all they could do was stay solid in defense and take any chance they get at the other end, because they knew there wouldn't be many. That's exactly what they did! It worked like a charm - the tactic was perfect. Kamil Glik was a rock at the heart of the defence. I've never been a fan of his in the past, but he's made real strides in Italy, and there is obviously a reason he was made captain at Torino. Szczesny has good days and bad days, but thankfully pulls out his best performances in Poland's big games.

Despite some great individual performances, magnificent defending and awesome goalkeeping, we know there was some luck involved as well. The truth is, Poland never really got going. Both the first and second goals came from possibly the only real counter attacks the Polish team had, and Neuer can take the blame for the first one, after needlessly rushing off his goal line. There were numerous close shaves around the Polish goal mouth. Yes, many of Germany's efforts on goal were kept out by Szczesny and his defenders, but there were a few occasions when the defence was left ball watching and the Germans were unfortunate not to score. Bellarabi's back post volley in the first half comes to mind, as he steered his shot just wide. Podolski also crashed a volley of his own against the bar late in the second half, with the score still at 1-0.

Then there's the line ups themselves. Poland had one key player out injured, Jakub Blaszczykowski. Yes the likes of Polanski and Obraniak were out too, but we know the story with Polanski, and Ludovic Obraniak's current form is bit of a mystery [since he doesn't play at his club].

The Germans were missing half their starting line up. Lahm and Klose have obviously retired from international football, but Germany's midfield in particular was far from their first string, with Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger all missing, as well as Marco Reus still being out with the injury he picked up before the World Cup. Benedikt Howedes, who was the starting left back for the Germans in Brazil, was also out.

Despite all this, the German team was still strong, with names like Hummels, Gotze, Schurrle and Muller all there. but it would be fair to say they were more severely weakened than the Polish side, yet still managed to have 22 attempts on the Polish goal, more than 5 times the amount Poland had on theirs.

I'm not downplaying the win, it was a great one, but I do fear that the Polish media will never shut up about it. Let's be happy, but look ahead. The silver medal in 1992 was great, but Poland didn't qualify for a tournament for 10 years after that. The win over Portugal in the Euro 2008 qualifiers was fantastic too, and it was a far better performance than the one we saw against Germany, but what did that lead to? A dismal performance at Euro 2008 and then failure to qualify for the following World Cup.

As difficult as it might be, the Polish team must put this game behind them as quickly as possible and look ahead to future games. The game with Scotland will be much different to this one. The same tactic won't work. Poland will have a lot of the possession and will need to create the chances, something they did very little of against Germany. Let's hope their accuracy is as good as it was on Saturday night.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poland beats Germany 2-0 in historic win

The Polish national team has made history today -- beating the German national team for the first time ever with a 2-0 win at the National Stadium.

The Germans dominated most of the game, but goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Sebastian Mila made the difference. Milik opened the scoring in the 51st minute, directing a header into the German's net. Sebastian Mila, who came on as a substitute in the 77th minute for Milik, found the back of the net in the 88th minute after being set up by Robert Lewandowski.

With the Germans pressuring Poland for most of the match, Poland's defense, especially Kamil Glik, and the two central midfielders, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Tomasz Jodlowiec, really stood up to the task at hand. The man of the match without a question was goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

It took 19 attempt, by the Polish national team has finally defeated Germany. Poland now sits atop of their group with two wins from two games.

Poland: Szczesny - Piszczek, Szukala, Glik, Wawrzyniak (84. Jedrzejczyk) - Grosicki (71. Sobota), Krychowiak, Jodlowiec, Milik (77. Mila), Rybus - Lewandowski.

Poland's Xl vs. Germany (Game-time 2:45pm est)

Polish national team head coach Adam Nawalka has revealed his starting lineup for today's European qualifier against Germany. 

Poland: Szczesny - Piszczek, Glik, Szukala, Wawrzyniak - Grosicki, Krychowiak, Jodlowiec, Rybus - Milik, Lewandowski.

Germany: Neuer - Rudiger, Hummels, Boateng, Durm - Kramer, Kroos - Bellarabi, Gotze, Schurrle - Muller.

Game-time is set for 2:45pm est.