Thursday, October 28, 2010

A guessing game

Poland's EURO 2012 squad remains a mystery. It's still 19 months left to the kick-off but picking the RIGHT players who will represent proudly a 40-million nation in the biggest event after world cup makes me nervous. Franciszek Smuda, our coach since 2009, had it all figured out. Until he became the team's coach (he waited patiently for over a decade for his dream job). Sadly, one year has passed for him to realize that Poland does not have too many quality players after all.

Really?! He needed a full year?!

So Smuda is searching. Searching everywhere inside and outside of Poland for players who will help Poland in its lets-not-bring-shame-to-our-fellow-Poles campaign during June 2012. There is already some success. He found left defender Sebastian Boenisch in Germany (born in Poland; waited for a call from German national coach, which never came, so he picked Poland). He wants Frenchman Damien Perquis (nice first name, huh?), a central defender, and Damien wants to play for Poland, as well. Good. Hopefully next year once he gets a Polish passport. Smuda wanted Laurent Koscielny, who opted to play for France. (Your loss Laurent!). We already have Ludovic Obraniak, a fantastic French midfielder, who still cannot speak Polish. But does it really matter? No! He plays great, he is ours. Yay! (by the way, quite an amusing story: Boenisch does understand Polish but does not speak it. Yet when he is asked a question in Polish, he replies in...English. Educated man, I say, and sensitive, too, not wanting to use that beautiful, poetic near-native language of his).

I say go for Manuel Arboleda, a Columbian central defender who actually speaks good Polish by playing in the Polish league for several years. Smuda is still against it (Arboleda has no blood ties with Poland yet he does want to represent Poland) but he was also against playing Artur Boruc again (world-class goalie, who had some personal problems) and was making fun of out-of-form Ebi Smolarek. Both are already back with the Polish team. If you want to avoid laughter, Mr Smuda, do not be so picky. There are many more not-so-Polish Poles but they might, quite ironically, give Poland a minute of joy in 19 months. Like Obraniak.

That brings us to Polish Poles - you should be ashamed of yourselves! Have some honor! Be proud of representing your country and leave your heart on the field. Like Obraniak. Like Arboleda and Perquis want.

Honestly, my biggest fear is the aftermath. In case of national tragedy (3 group games and out) I do not want to hear, for a millionth time, from coach and players their pitiful excuses. It will make me sick to the core of my body if I hear the usual: "we were not ready...we should have done this and that...we were not aggressive enough..." etc. WE, FANS, DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT!

Poland is rich, making everyone else jealous, by having fanstastic goalies: Boruc (Fiorentina), Fabianski (Arsenal London), Szczesny (Arsenal London), Kuszczak (Manchester United), Tyton (Roda Kerkrade), Zaluska (Celtic Glasgow) to name only a few great ones. That's already half the team! If only did they have the same talent to play different positions. Unfortunately they do not. Two things we know for certain: (1) we do not have 11 native Poles who can guarantee success; (2) we will not find 11 Brazilian-born magical players who dream about playing for Poland. Where does it leave us? Mr Smuda and we, fans, need to keep looking and keep our options open.

It's nearly impossible, even for me, to predict Poland's starting line-up in 19 months. My best guess, based on available talent, is: Boruc - Piszczek, Arboleda, Perquis, Boenisch - Matuszczyk, Murawski - Blaszczykowski, Obraniak, Grosicki - Jelen.

Jelen, a near-irreplacable forward in Auxerre, is my biggest question mark. Often injured and he has not copied his club performance in national team can be replaced by Lewandowski, who should be there in the first place but has lost his touch lately. I fear he might not recover in time. I hope that I am mistaken but more importantly I hope that a couple of players will have breakout perfomances in the next 19 months and will rise to stardom. Because the above squad does not guarantee a championship. Positions currently taken by Piszczek, Murawski, Grosicki and Jelen are up for grabs. In reality, only Boruc, Blaszczykowski, Obraniak and Matuszczyk seem to be locks.

Whether it is a Polish Pole or not, the Polish team needs a true star who will bring the glory time of 1970s and early 1980s back. A star who will provide example to everyone else that playing for your country is the greatest honor. A star, whose both talent and passion will be contagious and take the entire team to the next level. A championship level.

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