Saturday, May 18, 2013

Predictions were fulfilled quickly – Poland opened the tournament against West Germany and played boring football against equally boring reigning world champions to a scoreless tie.

Hansi Muller fighting with Adam Nawalka for the ball. The young players did not excite and did not invigorate their teams – they fought well and that was all. So far, everything was going as envisioned... Poland got a point, but also displayed problems – starting with five defenders worked well against struggling West Germany – but in defense. The midfield was not effective and Kasperczak replaced Nawalka in the hope of bringing some order. Attack was bigger trouble – the Lato – Szarmach – Lubanski trio obviosly did not work well together. Boniek made his World Cup debut, substituting tired Lubanski in the 78th minute. Not enough time really to make impression – and he made none.

The match against Tunisia was not to be a heavy task, or so was expected before the match started. Gmoch made only one change – Kasperczak was starter and Masztaler benched. Theoretically, this was to be the easiest match for Poland. Instead, it was nightmare – Poland launched steady speedy assault on Tunisian defense from the start, obviously wanting to overwhelm and crash the opposition. But the attacks were monotonous, unimaginative, and the Tunisian team quickly deciphered the limited Polish strategy, too simple to be really effective. Eventually, Poland scored.
Using Tunisian mistake in defense, Lato scores in the 42nd minute. A powerful picture, which also summarizes the Polish approach: assault driven more by will than skill. It did not brake Tunisia, but still brought result, however small.

The second half was different: Tunisia got the initiative and outplayed the Poles. There was one team on the pitch, but Poland was incredibly lucky: two shots met the goalposts. Another shot was desperately cleared from the goal line. Poland only tried to keep the result, unable for anything else. The strikers were particularly bad and Gmoch replaced both Lubanski and Szarmach, bringing Boniek and Iwan instead. Nothing good happened, except Poland managed to preserve the fragile lead to the end and clinched undeserved victory. Disappointed and worried Gmoch did not mince words after the match: 'We played badly. I am not accusing anybody personally – the whole team played poorly'.

Things were not going well – and Gmoch made few changes for the third match.

Against Mexico Rudy came instead of Maculewicz, Masztaler was back, and Szarmach and Lubanski were benched in favour of Boniek and Iwan. The attack was the biggest problem and Gmoch attempted radical reshaping, hoping that the youngsters may bring life to stagnated line. Alas, no real improvement. Luckily, Mexico was too weak against physically stronger opponents – parity was preserved to the end of the first half, when Boniek scored his first goal in the 42nd minute. In the second half the Mexicans equalized, but eventually Deyna and Boniek again scored two goals and Poland won 3-1.
Only on static photography Poland looked supreme – in reality, it was more or less equal match. Poland was just a little stronger, a little more efficient and experienced than Mexico. And may be Mexico, already eliminated, was not fully motivated. Tiny differences, enough to win the match, but fooling no one. Poland qualified to the next stage, but Gmoch had big problems at his hands.