Poland makes another early exit from Euros
It was supposed to be different this time for Poland.
Playing in front of their home fans, the Poles expected to at
least reach the quarterfinals of the European Championship.
Instead, their campaign came to an all-too-familiar crashing halt –
winless, last in the group and searching for answers.
Poland showed moments of promise at the tournament, dominating
Greece in the first half of their opening match and controlling
play for long stretches against Russia. But the team’s lack of
consistency proved to be its undoing in 1-1 draws in both
Needing a win Saturday against the Czech Republic – weakened by
the absence of captain Tomas Rosicky – to secure a place in the
quarterfinals, the Poles played their worst match of the
competition, losing 1-0.
”It seems to me that the small mistakes, the nuances, decided
that we didn’t advance,” said striker Robert Lewandowski, who
scored the tournament’s opening goal against Greece. ”We can sit
here and go on and on about what could have been if we hadn’t made
the mistakes we did. I think we gave it our all. We wanted the
best. The fans were with us.”
After a winless Euro debut in 2008, Poland’s red-and-white clad
supporters were hopeful that this year a team led by three stars
from Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund – Lewandowski, Jakub
Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek – could bring the country its
first ever win at a European Championship and a spot in the
The Dortmund trio didn’t disappoint: Lewandowski scored with a
header against Greece and Blaszczykowski with a perfectly struck
left-footed drive against Russia. But those three players were not
enough to propel the team even out of Group A, which was widely
considered the weakest in the tournament.
Coach Franciszek Smuda played Lewandowski as a sole striker, and
all too often he was left alone against two or even three
defenders. After proving a handful for Russia and Greece,
Lewandowski had very few touches against the Czechs – something
he’d complained of earlier in the tournament – and struggled to
link up with the midfield.
Smuda, who brought the second-youngest team to the tournament,
said following the loss to the Czech Republic that his time with
the national team has come to an end. His contract was due to
expire at the end of Euro 2012.
Whoever the Polish Football Association hires as his replacement
will still have the same core group of talent to base the team
around. Blaszczykowski, the captain and heart of the team, is only
26, while Lewandowski is just 23 and Piszczek 27.
The country also has two solid young goalkeepers – Arsenal’s
22-year-old Wojciech Szczesny and 25-year-old Przemyslaw Tyton of
PSV. Tyton came on to save a penalty against Greece after Szczesny
received a red card for a foul in the box, and played well in the
next two matches to prove his worth.
After early exits at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and at Euro
2008, Poland’s supporters were hugely disappointed to exit at the
group stage again this year. But the players, who appeared at
Warsaw’s fan zone Sunday to thank the fans for their support, are
still smarting from this loss, yet also looking to the future.
”We’re going to move forward. We have World Cup qualifying
coming up, and what we’ve built here we can’t let fall apart, all
the more because we definitely have potential,” Lewandowski said.
”We’ll be a much better team in World Cup qualifying than we were
Poland’s fans are hoping that’s the case.