Coming into the World Cup after an impressive Euro 2016 and qualification campaign, much was expected from Poland in Russia. Grouped in arguably the most even group in the tournament alongside Colombia, Japan and Senegal, Adam Nawalka’s men were at the very least expected to make it to the round of sixteen. Instead, what transpired was one of Poland’s worst displays on the world stage.
Despite having one of the world’s elite number nines leading the way in Robert Lewandowski, Poland were unable to conjure up anything of note and often left the Bayern Munich man stranded on an island by himself. Like any world class player, Lewandowski tried to create something from nothing, but largely struggled and dropped far too deep leaving the Poles without a reference point up top. With Arek Milik inexplicably benched for their last two group games, Lewandowski’s workload only increased.
When Nawalka switched his formation after their opening day defeat to Senegal, many doubted whether the Polish tactician even knew his best eleven. Without a clear identity to fall back on, Poland failed to inspire and saw their World Cup campaign unravel before their very eyes. Kamil Glik’s injury also did the Europeans no favours, losing one of the side’s prominent leaders for the first two games. While Nawalka proved to be tactically adept in the past, his decisions this time around left many scratching their heads and ultimately cost the Poles in key moments.
Moving forward, Poland are going to need their younger players like Dawid Kownacki and Piotr Zielinski among others to step up. Let’s face it, Lewandowski is no longer at the peak of his powers and can’t do everything on his own.
By: Gregory Caltabanis