Euro 2012: Poland tactics and key questions – the expert’s view
Franciszek Smuda prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation but the Poland coach has problems in defence and no replacement for star striker Robe rt Lewandowski if he gets injured
This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2012 Experts’ Network, a co-operation between 16 of the best media organisations from the countries who have qualified for the finals in Poland and Ukraine. guardian.co.uk is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 8 June
Poland’s preferred formation is an orthodox 4-2-3-1 with Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny a guaranteed starter in goal. The back-ups are Tomasz Kuszczak and Lukasz Fabianski but the latter has played very little competitive football this season.
The full-backs, who should be Lukasz Piszczek from Borussia Dortmund on the right and Jakub Wawrzyniak of Legia Warszawa on the left, have the licence to go forward but only the former is any good at it. Piszczek is more of a wing-back than a defender and played up front for a long time before being moved back to full-back by Hertha Berlin, hence his desire to go forward at any opportunity.
Wawrzyniak is by far the best left-back in the Polish league but, having said that, there isn’t much competition for that accolade.
The centre-backs are considered the weak points of Franciszek Smuda’s team, a position the opponents may be able to target. Damien Perquis of Sochaux has played there but he has broken his arm and may not be fit in time for the Euros. Marcin Wasilewski (Anderlecht) and Arkadiusz Glowacki (Trabzonspor) are other options but they are not the quickest and are also quite injury prone.
Smuda’s two defensive midfielders are usually Rafal Murawski of Lech Poznan, Dariusz Dudka of Auxerre or Eugen Polanski of Mainz. They are here to cover for the defenders and that’s what they do, more or less efficiently.
Now to the offensive quartet, upon which so much hinges. Jakub Blaszczykowski is a certain starter on the right side as he links up very well with Piszczek, his team-mate from Dortmund. He is the captain and has also had his fair share of injuries so we are never certain he will play before we see him standing there in the tunnel before the game. He missed Euro 2008 because of injury.
The situation on the left is more problematic after Slawomoir Peszko (Köln) was dropped from the squad. Kamil Grosicki of the Turkish side Sivasspor, Maciej Rybus of Terek Grozny in Chechnya (Russia) or, more excitingly, Rafal Wolski of Legia (no caps yet but he is making all the headlines back in Poland) are options, with Rybus starting there in the recent friendly against Slovakia.
Ludovic Obraniak, who has really come to life after moving from Lille to Bordeaux during the winter window or Adrian Mierzejewski, who mainly warms the bench at Trabzonspor, are the options as Smuda’s offensive midfielder/second striker. The latter cost Trabzonspor €5m (£4m) when he moved to Turkey and is a talented player but the move has not worked out yet.
The s tar of the team is Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski and he plays up front on his own. If he does not play we are doomed big time. Ireneusz Jelen (Lille) or Pawel Brozek (Celtic) are not worthy replacements as they do not even play for their clubs at the time of writing.
This is all in theory, though, as Poland are, according to the Fifa rankings, the weakest of all Euro 2012 finalists, so we will probably let the other team play the football and concentrate on defending. On the other hand it’s hard to imagine the Greek team throwing everything at us in the opening game. It could be a stalemate. The Greeks, too, are not known for their offensive skills.
If we let the opponents play it will enable us to do what we like best: counter attack. And that is nothing to be ashamed of. The Polish teams who came third at the 1974 and 1982 World Cups played that way. And if Grzegorz Lato, Zbigniew Boniek, Robert Gadocha and Kazimierz Deyna were doing it there is no rea son why the current generation shouldn’t.
Who is the player who is going to surprise everyone at the Euros?
Robert Lewandowski will surprise those who don’t follow the Bundesliga. He scored more than 20 goals for Borussia Dortmund, including a cheeky backheel against Bayern Munich in what was effectively the title-deciding game. Lewandowski would do well in any team in the world at the moment. He is strong, good in the air and deadly in the penalty area.
Who is the player who is going to disappoint the most?
The answer to this was going to be Slawomir Peszko (the Köln winger with four kidneys) because he lacks a footballing brain, at times runs around like a headless chicken and always misses when given the opportunity to score. But Peszko has offered up his disappointment before the finals even start, by being thrown out of the squad by Smuda after a night out on the town and a row with a taxi driver.
What is the realistic aim for your team at the Euros and why?
If we don’t disgrace ourselves it will be a result. Making it past the group stage is realistic for the lowest ranked finalist but whatever the outcome on the field it’s a win-win situation as the universally disliked head of the Polish FA, Lato, has promised to resign if we don’t make it through.
I’m more looking forward to the party atmosphere in the host cities, especially in Gdansk where I live. Many fans coming here are expected to stay on the beaches. The sea is not warm, but the temperature is around 25C and a cold beer costs around €2 (£1.60).
Maciej Slominski is a writer for futbolnet.pl
Click here to read the profile of Robert Lewandowski