Poland suffering from lack of depth in squad
Even with his starting 11 clearly tiring in the second half of their European Championship opener against Greece, Poland coach Franciszek Smuda didn't turn to his bench.
The simple reason: Smuda's squad is painfully short on depth.
His sole substitution in the Group A match on Friday was forced upon him when goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny received a red card for a challenge in the box, prompting the coach to bring on No. 2 keeper Przemyslaw Tyton.
But Smuda opted not to bring on any outfield players to boost a Poland attack that dominated the first half and wilted after the break in a 1-1 draw.
The lack of cover is a serious problem for the tournament co-host if it wants to advance from the group stage.
The Poles have four days to recover before they play Russia, which overwhelmed the Czech Republic 4-1 in their opening match. Poland then wraps up group play against the Czechs four days later.
Before the tournament opened, Smuda spoke openly about a lack of depth in his squad, saying that in Poland ''it's actually very hard to find 11 good players.''
''We aren't in a situation like the Germans are right now, where we could put together three national teams from our squad. We can only put together one, and we have to pray to God that we don't have any injuries,'' he said.
The good news is that Poland has three top-class players in its starting 11 at this tournament, the kind of talent it lacked at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups as well as the 2008 European Championship.
Striker Robert Lewandowski, midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski and defender Lukasz Piszczek are teammates at Borussia Dortmund, and helped power the German club to its second consecutive Bundesliga title last season.
The Dortmund trio was in good form Friday, causing Greece problems down the right side during the first half with quick one-touch passing that eventually led to Lewandowski's header in the 17th minute that put Poland ahead 1-0.
But as the match dragged on, Piszczek, Blaszczykowski and Lewandowski clearly tired. Each time they were knocked down, it took them a bit longer to pick themselves up.
''Every one of us left a lot on the field and is going to feel it in our bones,'' Blaszczykowski said. ''We have to recuperate as quickly as possible.''
Eugen Polanski, Ludovic Obraniak and Rafal Murawski were solid in midfield, but also faded in the second half.
Smuda's strongest option to bring on fresh legs would have been Auxerre's Dariusz Dudka, a veteran of Euro 2008 and a reliable defensive midfielder.
But there's a considerable drop-off after that. His other options in midfield - Kamil Grosicki, Adrian Mierzejewski and Adam Matuszczyk - are still developing and have no experience on such a grand stage.
Up front, Poland has 21-year-old Artur Sobiech, who has just four national-team appearances under his belt, and Pawel Brozek to choose from.
Smuda said he wanted to bring on Brozek in the second half against Greece, but that Szczesny's red card forced him to change his plans.
But Brozek isn't in form. He struggled to work his way into the lineup with club side Celtic this spring and made just three appearances for the Scottish champions.
Even with such few options, Smuda will have to trust his bench at some point if Poland wants to reach the knockout stage.