Poland’s glory days in the 1970s and 1980s are over. And Polish are out from their own tournament. Some, as the excellent Polish Footbal Scout website did, criticized coach Franciszek Smuda for this early exit. But Smuda built the team on its strenghs: defending well and counter attacking. 1974 and 1982 World Cups' teams played that way. But Grzegorz Lato, Zbigniew Boniek, and Kazimierz Deyna are no more here. Poland entered into the Group stage with a favourite 4-2-3-1. After the first poor mtach against Greece, Smuda was able to switch to a 4-3-3. Not all the blame has to be put on Smuda's shoulders. Highly regarded full-backs Lukasz Piszczek and Sebastian Boenisch underperfomed and played often forward passes rather than overlapping; the centre-backs, considered the weak points of this team, confirmed the fears; against Czech Republic, attackers wasted a lot of chances. Obviously, some mistakes came from Smuda. The way to play fast-break was uncorrect: team never pressed strongly and preferred stay deep covering the spaces instead to press hard. That way left too much ball control to the rivals. But ball possession stats tell us also that Poland had 54% of ball control against counter-attacking Greece; 40% against Russia and 41% against Czech Republic. The match against Russia and the first half against Czech Republic, in which Polish had the opportunity to leave the ball control and play fast-break, were the best Poland's perfomances so far. That means the question about how Polish would be good at attacking never had answer. Just Robert Lewandowski and, partially, Ludovic Obraniak, produced good football up top. On defense, as said, the centre-backs were unremarklable and the defensive line had trouble reading ball free/ball close situations as the penalty kick action allowed to the Greeks showed.
Against Russia, it was 4-3-3/4-5-1 yet. Counter-attacks worked in the first half where Poland had some scoring chances. The problems came in the second half, when the scoring need became more urgent. They was unbable to go through Czech's defense. At the end, slow midfield's play and a lack of attacking strategy hurted.