For success, the team needs to play strong on defense, but, with a below average defense, all the pressure belongs to goalkeeping star Wojciech Szczesny to "save" us in tough spots, something like he did against the Germans in September. But today, we didn't have a spectacular performance from Szczesny, in fact, he played poorly. He wasn't tested much, and the cold temperatures may have been reason for his soft play. He was out of position on the first goal, which gave Mario Balotelli a easy goal. The second goal could of been saved as well. He is human afterall, and only 21-years old. These type of games will happen.
Our other weakness, which is our biggest, is our lack of finish. This Polish team has a lot of speed, they pass very well, have great chemistry and are excellent passers. The passing wasn't perfect tonight, in fact, it was poor, compared to how usually these guys pass, but it was good enough to keep Italy on their toes and get chances of Gianluca Buffon's net. When they don't finish, they don't have a chance to win (obvious), the name of the game is scoring, but, we can't rely on garbage goals, on special team plays such as corners and free kicks, and we most defiantly can not win based on defense, like the Greeks did in the 2004 European Championships.
But, step off the ledge. It isn't as bad as it seems. Yes, the problems are real. But the plan is in place to compete in the 2012 European Cup, not in November. Smuda still has plenty of time to figure out how to exactly execute the game plan for when the matches truly matter. The talent and potential is there.
One problem I see with this national team is with midfielder Ludovic Obraniak. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, do the positives outweigh the negatives? He does do a good job of spreading the field and has a excellent shot. But, he is very careless with the ball, and for a team based on counter attacks, he's the worst passer our attack has to offer. Ideally, we should replace Obraniak with Robert Lewandowski in midfield, who has better vision, great chemisty with Kuba and Slawomir Peszko, but, the lack of another striker is too big.
If only Pawel Brozek could be a better finisher. Brozek may have too many flaws in his game for him to play alone uptop, but, it's worth seeing. Although, Smuda did try it today in the second half, and the offense didn't generate much more then the first half.
If not Lewandowski, we should return Adrian Mierzejewski back into the starting XI. Let them play as a unite over several matches and see how they do. The reason why Obraniak keeps staying in the lineup is the theory that his positives, a true goalscorer, outweigh his negatives, but where are the goals? He scored two in his debut, and only two since, against Ecuador and the Ivory Coast.
Peszko needs to be better
The most interesting player on this squad is Peszko. He could of single handily beat the Germans for us. He could of scored three goals that night, in the first half. He had chances today. Several of them. But, scoring wise, he has nothing to show for. You can't bench a player because he's missing chances. To get into that position, is a skill. They don't just give him space, he finds it, he is quick and he is tough on the ball. He could be a hero, or a villain. In all realism, today doesn't matter, but will be bury his chances in June 2012? Only time will tell, but his potential is and probably will be the most intriguing for this squad come the European Cup. The fact he is getting the chances should be promising. We just have to hope he will be able to finish on the big stage. This is just a test run.
We may have played the 2012 European Champs today
Despite facing our flaws straight on today, we must also realize we faced a team today that will be most likely the biggest competitor to Spain for the European Cup in 2012. Italy has destroyed qualifiers, played 10 matches, won 8 of them, drawn the other two. This squad only gave up 2 goals in those 10 matches. Something to think about. They are very well coached, very well organized, a veteran group, who plays great in their own end, play strong on the ball, play mistake free and attack when they see a hole, or a breakdown, as they did today. They didn't peak today, but neither did we. The temperatures were cold, and a major advantage to the more organized team.
It's disappointing to lose, and we are due for a win against a big team. The fans deserve but this squad deserves it too. There's nothing wrong with a little confidence booster, but, Italy, and others are game ready, Poland is just playing meaningless games, and they must be very itchy to get the European championships underway to show their true worth to the world. Believe in this team, I think they will surprise many people next year.
Lukasz Kotecki joins the PolandSoccerBlog staff to express his thought about Polish soccer.
Follow Lukasz on twitter @LukaszKotecki