Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Group 5. The bomb fell down and annihilated… England. This was the only real surprise, yet it was a huge one: the elimination of England. Nobody suspected such thing at first – it looked like easy group for the English, with Poland, never considered a real opponent, and Wales, which was familiar and however tough – beatable. If anything, Wales was more likely to give problems to the Poles, not to England. Poland did not stand a chance against two teams from the British Isles. Predictions worked smoothly at first – Wales beat Poland at Cardiff, where England won. And with these two early matches everything predicted ended. Wales managed 1-1 draw at London – a bit of a nuisance, yet England was confident. Then the mighty English lost 0-2 away in Poland. No big deal either… must have been the hostile industrial stadium in Chorzow. The bomb dropped on Wembley: the Poles scored first and after that their entirely unknown goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski performed miracles. England equalized and finished second.
1. Poland 2 1 1 6-3 5
2. England 1 2 1 3-4 4
3. Wales 1 1 2 3-5 3
It was telling that Brian Clough, the rebel and the maverick of English football, called Tomaszewski ‘a clown’ after the match – Clough was supposed to be the innovator in English football… who was obviously blind to the new Continental football, as every ‘old school’ British coach. Well… Clough was never appointed to coach England and the clown played World Cup finals and had a very successful career both in Poland and abroad. So, who was the clown? Arrogantly, the English did not pay any attention to the Olympic title Poland won in 1972. True, nobody else paid much attention, but this is not an excuse for underestimating an opponent – Poland was building good team and played increasingly modern football.

Mick Channon leaping for a header, but the ball ends in Tomaszewski’s hands. Jerzi Gorgon (#3) watching.
Another English attack and another Tomaszewski’s save.

Jan Tomaszewski after the final whistle. The unknown goalkeeper eliminated England. Not bad for a ‘clown’. And contrary to Clough’s dismissive opinion, neither Poland, nor the clown were done yet. Unlike England.It was a sad shock and many thought it freak accident. Including me, big fan of England as I was. Collective blindness continued – Poland was expected to be an outsider at the World Cup finals. From the distance of time it is really amazing: so much talk about total football in the early 70s; so much analyses; so much criticism of old fashion teams; and yet when something new appeared very few grasped it. The talk was how sad England was out, not how good Poland was.