Limp exit for injury-stricken Poles

Poland have made an early exit from Euro 2008 Injurys made a major contribution to this along with some other problems they are addressed below.

The reasons why Poland ended up with the group B wooden spoon, Injuries! Beenhakker lost two members of his 23-man squad before the tournament began midfielder Jakub BÅ‚aszczykowski and goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak both withdrew and had to be replaced after the team’s arrival in Austria, BÅ‚aszczykowski loss was major as he is a starter in the 11. Next was captain Maciej Å»urawski who picked up an injury in the first group game he was substituted and was unable to play again. He has a pivital part of the side not just as captain but as a goalscorer.

Off-field matters also provided a distraction. The players were deeply saddened by the death of Poland volleyball international Agata Mróz, who passed away at the age of 26, days before their first game. There was another blow when former Poland player Adam LedwoÅ„, who had played 16 times for the national team with many of the current squad, was found hanged at his home in Klagenfurt the day before Poland’s match against co-hosts Austria, aged just 34. “That also had a bad impact on the team,” said defender Jacek BÄ…k.

Thirdly, starting their programme with their most difficult fixture, against tournament favourites Germany, was always going to be a problem, although ultimately Poland as a team failed to deliver at the EURO because so many of their key players failed to deliver as individuals. With Żurawski and Błaszczykowski missing due to injury, Beenhakker needed others to take over and show leadership to the many young, home-based players in the squad but they failed to do that. Indeed the tournament proved a disappointment for much-touted players like Euzebiusz Smolarek and Marcin Wasilewski.

The poor performance of the players was also a major factor:
“We have two or three players who did not do what I expect of them,” Beenhakker admitted ruefully. “We can make a strong team but for that to happen everyone has to be on board. If two or three players play at only 80 per cent of their ability, we don’t have players who can take over. You see Germany, when [Michael] Ballack doesn’t play the perfect game, [Torsten] Frings is there to take over and compensate. If Deco is not playing very well then [Cristiano] Ronaldo takes over but with our team now, we have two or three players who drop to 70 or 80 per cent and then the whole team drops.”

On a lighter note real stars of Polands tournament were their fans. They earned praise for their vocal support and their behaviour – such as the clapping of their opponents’ national anthem in the final group match against Croatia. The real regret in the Poland camp is that Leo Beenhakker’s squad did not give those followers much to cheer about, with just one point and one goal to show for their efforts at EURO 2008.

As the tired supporters headed home, questions raged about their team’s display at the finals. Was it, as coach Leo Beenhakker said, a miracle that Poland had even qualified, or was it a disappointment that they had failed to recapture the form which made them so successful in qualifying?

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