A tale of two halves

Posted by Patrick Nowak

Poland ended their Euro 2012 opener against the Greeks with a 1-1 draw, a result that has the nation feeling uneasy now. This is because the Poles no longer have their fate in their own hands, and will have to count on results from their group rivals to have a chance to progress. However, let's not go overboard here: it was only a draw, so Poland still have some say on whether they move on or not. To do so they will need more than what they received from Smuda on Friday.


The entire second half, Poland coach Smuda looked like a deer trapped in the headlights. His tactics for the first half were good, and were well played. But in the second half everything changed, Poland started look more vulnerable than dangerous, players couldn't make runs anymore, poor passing etc... in these cases, a coach would start to make some smart substitutions to get the game back on track. This never happened, and Smuda only stood there watching his side slowly sink like the Titanic and clueless on what to do about it. Greece coach Ferando Santos saw his side struggling so he switched things up, and that proved to be a total game-changer. What does Smuda do when he sees an invisible Rybus, Murawski and poor Boenisch? Nothing but hope things will get magically better.


Poland, a team that have had nothing but clean sheets in the recent friendlies heading up to UEFA Euro 2012, concede to Greece of all teams. Greece. The team that scored the fewest goals to have qualified for the Euros. Other than the first half, during which Poland looked like they were going to take the game by storm and win 3-0, nothing but frustration was met in the second half. It was certainly a tale of two halves, and felt like two different Poland teams played in each.


Positives


Lukasz Piszczek: The best player for Poland, hands down. The Greeks couldn't get past him, and they couldn't hold him down on the right flank. Due to this, Piszczek was given plenty of freedom on the right to torture the Greece defence and bombard the penalty box with crosses. The Borussia Dortmund defender was one of the few Polish players in the second half who still looked quality all the way. He balled so hard, no wonder Real Madrid want to sign him.


Przemyslaw Tyton: Not really having much to do, he did what was asked of him. Coming on cold at such a crucial moment and the first thing to do is make the biggest save of his entire career? Brilliant. Poland could have easily lost the game if that penalty was scored, and Szczesny would likely never play in the tournament anymore. Luckily, Tyton held his nerve and kept Poland in the game having also made history at the same time. Good work from him and I expect him to ride off this emotion in the game against Russia.


Negatives:


Left-back problem: Poland don't really have anyone better to play at left-back than Sebastian Boenisch, who today showed everyone he isn't the same player. Complete lack of pace, miscommunication with Perquis in the centre, always let the Greek crosses in, and of course kept them onside for that penalty. On the bench there is Jakub Wawrzyniak, who actually played for his club this season, but Smuda was stubborn in playing Boenisch over him anyway... only because he went through such a song and dance to persuade Boenisch to play for Poland. It would look foolish of him to not play him after all that but, on the other hand, he looks foolish for starting and playing Boenisch for the full 90. Will he keep him for the next game? Who’s to say what he’s planning on doing. If he does keep him, then Dzagoev will destroy him the way he played in the opener.


Wojciech Szczesny: Certainly had a game to forget. I said it before, and I'll say it again. Smuda made a huge error blacklisting Artur Boruc, and putting all his trust in Szczesny - who, don't get me wrong, is also a quality goalkeeper... but not someone you would play over Boruc. Szczesny is young, and is still learning the ropes. He's made plenty of class saves for Arsenal this season but also quite a few blunders as well. Not experienced enough to be playing at this level, not with all the expectations and pressure riding on his back. His failure to claim a cross from Vasilis Torosidis resulted in the ball falling at the feet of Salpingidis to score Greece's equaliser and he then brought down the same player with a rash tackle for a penalty. Now he's out for the Russia encounter, and Poland "hero" Tyton is in.


Conclusion:


Poland can take a positive first half from this match, showing the world that they in fact know how to play. Robert Lewandowski also showed he can be dangerous if his team are willing to play hard and smart. Against the Russians, Smuda is going to definitely have to make some changes, and I'm not only talking about pre-game! Will definitely want to see Dudka, Grosicki and Wolski play a part next game.


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