WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT – but also, what a frustration. This may turn out to be the best opportunity the Polish football team ever has to progress in a major tournament: on home soil, a weak group – no Spain, no Germany, no Italy, no France; no England, even! – and only one goal needed against the Czechs. And yet Poland contrived not only to lose, but to lose listlessly. The BBC analysts – messrs Lineker and Shearer – showed footage of the Polish players simply not moving around much during the game, and couldn’t explain it. Now, though I don’t know if I can explain it either, I have been madly blogging and tweeting about this since the Euros began, and wrote about it in my book way before then: the ever present danger the Polish football team’s spirit will dissipate. The manager and some analysts blamed this on the immense pressure, but I don’t buy that: this has been a trait of the Polish team throughout the 20 years I’ve been following their fortunes. It’s such a shame, particularly this time around as the Poles looked technically good and at times played like a real team, knocking the ball around fluently and incisively. I’ve long since observed a certain resignation on the part of many Poles when it comes to their footie team’s chances. It’s tempting to relate this diffidence back to the Poles’ historical tribulations, but that may be glib. Maybe the Poles just aren’t the strongest at football (coming from an Englishman..). Whatever the whys and wherefores, I’m very sad at the Polish exit, and it’s striking how many have expressed the same view in the short time since the match ended (even Lineker looked grim-faced). Maybe this has something to do with the terrific passion shown by the Polish supporters. It’s time their representatives on the field displayed the same commitment.
PS It’d be really interesting to hear from Polish football fans: why does the team so often seem to lack drive?