As a sport journalist, I always try not to get too much involved emotionally when I write, especially about the teams that mean something to me. But today I’m going to make an exception, as I’m writing for Poland from the bottom of my heart.
Yesterday was a big day for both Poland and Colombia: It was all or nothing, losers were going to go home at a very early stage in this World Cup, to the disappointment of a whole nation. Both squads were aware of that.
After having lost their opening games, both coaches revolutionized their starting eleven, with four changes per team. On the Colombian side, the good news was that their number 10, the talented James Rodríguez, overcome his physical issues and could be on the pitch from the start. On the Polish side, coach Adam Nawalka lined up Dawid Kownacki and Jacek Goralski, probably expecting a more intense and physical game.
In the 5th minute, the Colombians held their breath as goalkeeper David Ospina twisted his ankle. He received medical assistance for few minutes, but he could continue to play.
Piotr Zielinski from Napoli knew that this could be his day, he kept asking his teammates the ball, starting to feel important, and having more and more influence on the game. However, in the first 15 minutes the match was continuously stopped by faults and simulations. Abel Aguero suffered an injury, and had to be replaced by Mateus Uribe. Fans were definitely not enjoying the show.
But slowly, Rodriguez and midfielder Juan Quintero started to take control of the field. 39 minutes after the start, a combination between the two resulted in a cross into Poland’s small box, where Yerry Mina was left free to strike with his head for Colombia’s 1-0. It’s difficult to understand how the eleven players in red and white would simply look at the action, not even trying to go for the ball. It looked like a high school game.
Every time the ball was in control of the Cafeteros, the lack of intensity from the Poles was astonishing, it seemed that they were playing in slow motion. But in the 59th minute, Robert Lewandowski caught a long-range pass and nicely controlled the ball, but then missed his chance face to face with Ospina. Now, a World Cup is a tournament where you would expect players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar to make the difference. But in this case, the “Polish Messi” Lewandowski seemed not to have ever disembarked his flight to Russia.
Quintero was so comfortable with the space left to him and the lack of opposition, that in the 70th minute he could serve Radamel Falcao a perfect assist, for El Tigre to score the second, and kill the last chance for the Poles. The Colombian party continued five minutes later, when a beautiful pass by James Rodríguez allowed Juan Cuadrado to make a fast break and score the 3-0 goal, after winning a one-to-one with his teammate at Juventus Wojciech Szczesny.
In the last stages of the game, Poland made a few sterile attempts on target, but without any luck. There is around 40 million Polish people in the Country, and approximately 20 more million live abroad as a consequence of the Polish diaspora – one of the biggest mass migration in the world. None of them had a reason to smile last night. Not the ones in Perth or Chicago, not the ones in Berlin, Dublin or Warsaw.
We don’t know when we will see Poland playing again in the World Cup. Some players get only one chance in their life to dispute such a competition. But yesterday, I didn’t see any pride or attitude from the ones who were on the pitch.
After years and years of excuses, it’s about time for Poland to look forward, and start changing their mentality. That is the only recipe for success. The Red-and-Whites arrived to this World Cup from the 7th place in the FIFA Ranking, which earned them a place in the Pot 1 in the draw, and allowed them to avoid being seeded with teams like Germany, Brazil, or France.
Nevertheless, here we are, the last in our group, with 0 points collected, and with our biggest star failing to score a single goal. I would love to say that there is going to be another opportunity in 4 years, but only the destiny will tell. The reality is that yesterday one of the best Polish generations of footballers in the recent years bid farewell to the World Cup with only one goal scored.
My only asks to our players is to start thinking big, believe in themselves, and show some pride when they are wearing that White Eagle on their chest.
For the time being, congrats to Colombia!
June 24, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool H
SCORERS: 40′ Mina, 70′ Falcao, 75′ Ju. Cuadrado
|POLAND (3-4-3): Szczesny; Piszczek, Bednarek, Pazdan (80′ Glik); Bereszynski (72′ Teodorczyk), Krychowiak, Goralski, Rybus; Zielinski, Lewandowski, Kownacki (57′ Grosicki) (Bialkowski, Fabianski, Jedrzejczyk, Cionek, Milik, Linetty, Blaszczykowski, Peszko, Kurzawa) Coach: Nawalka|
COLOMBIA (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Arias, Mina, D. Sanchez, Mojica; Aguilar (32′ Uribe), Barrios; Ju. Cuadrado, Quintero (68′ Lerma), James Rodriguez; Falcao (78′ Bacca) (Vargas, José Cuadrado, Zapata, Murillo, Muriel, Diaz, Borja, Izquierdo) Coach: Pekerman
REFEREE: Ramos (Mexico)
NOTES: Attendance: 40000; Yellow Cards: Bednarek, Goralski (P); Extra time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half 5′