Every football team has its bogey team – an opponent against whom they nearly always play badly. Every football fan knows this and most Polish football fans are aware that one of their biggest bogey teams is – Romania.
Before Saturday, Poland’s all-time record against Romania was: Played 32; Won 4; Drawn 15; Lost 13; Goals for 42; Goals against 50. So who do PZPN pick as their new coach’s opponents to try and begin restoring some confidence in a national team whose players and fans are still smarting at the way they failed to qualify for World Cup 2010? Why, Romania of course.
It is something strange in football which nobody can explain – but everyone involved in the game will tell you that bogey-teams really do exist. Most fans who support clubs will know that there is a certain opponent against whom they just cannot get it right. An excellent blogsite belonging to The Guardian newspaper called ‘The Sportblog’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2008/sep/10/1 actually deals with this subject. Its writer Rob Smyth describes how giants Real Madrid always play badly against minnows Tenerife, Arsenal do likewise against mediocre Bolton and England nearly always lose against Germany.
Surely in a situation where restoring self-confidence and blooding in a new coach at the same time is the main aim – you choose your opponents carefully. I am not suggesting that Franciszek Smuda’s first game in charge should have been San Marino - but there are plenty of other opponents who would provide the reprezentacja with a good test, yet not have a curse hanging over them.
Then there is Lazienkowska as the choice of venue. Who on earth plays international football matches – even friendlies – in a stadium that is a virtual building site? Did England use Wembley during the stadium rebuilding? The Football Association would have been booted out of office en masse had they even suggested that the national team should play a match at Wembley before it had been completed – never mind barely started. The obvious reason PZPN chose Lazienkowska has to be that they knew it would be filled to capacity – which at the moment is a mere 5,000. That is probably the biggest number of fans this present reprezentacja could draw anywhere, and so playing at any larger stadium, would have looked pretty bad.
What this choice of opponent and venue demonstrates is the PZPN’s total lack of understanding about the nuances of the game. They’ve also made it that much more difficult for Smuda and his team to pick themselves up off the floor. Next Wednesday’s opponents Canada would have been a better choice for this coach’s first game – they’re about Poland’s standard and believe it or not, Canada is three places above Poland in the FIFA rankings, at 53! Last Saturday they lost 0-3 to Macedonia and the game before that, 0-1 to Honduras. If we lose this one – God help us!