The Polish Men's national soccer team didn't qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This came after two back-to-back first round exits in the last two FIFA World Cups. I see this as something positive though. In my mind, not making the trip to South Africa next year saves Poland from another disappointment, which is crashing out after the group stage. What's the point of going to every World Cup just to play three games? I rather not see Poland on soccer's biggest stage every four years if they're going to go three and out every time. Not qualifying actually spares a team like Poland further embarrassment and ruining their forefathers' previous successes at the World Cup. Poland used to play awesome at the World Cup, with players like Lato, Tomaszewski, Deyna, Lubanski, Szarmach, Zmuda, Boniek. They took home the Bronze Medal twice--in 1974 and 1982, and got Gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics, stopping legendary Hungary in the Final. They were silver medalists four years later, in 1976, falling to East Germany in the Gold Medal Match.
There are also other laurels on the Polish national team's resume. Grzegorz Lato, the star forward, won the Golden Shoe in the 1974 World Cup, Zbigniew Boniek became the first Eastern European player to play for a major club abroad--Juventus F.C.. Other Polish players won top scorer awards at Olympic tournaments, including Andrzej Juskowiak in Barcelona in 1992 when Poland settled for second place Olympic Silver. With this said, the more that Poland goes to World Cups and gets bounced out in the first round, the more worse it's going to look for a team with a rich football tradition.
Poland's opening match loss to Ecuador in the last World Cup was disgraceful, and the Poles were on most people's list of making it out of the group. I think that the expectations set forth for the "White and Red" were too high. Poland's first round group from '06 was the easiest in their FIFA World Cup history. So if they couldn't get the job done against mediocre opposition, then they most likely wouldn't get the job done versus similar or tougher opponents at the upcoming World Cup. They are just so unpredictable for their own dis-benefit. I am aware of Polish soccer history and therefore know that the teams of the past were absolute dynamite. In 1974, Poland had the best team in the world. They were the "unofficial" 1974 FIFA World Cup Champions in some people's eyes, after a miserably wet pitch in the semifinal of that World Cup tied up their speedy legs and gave the hosts, West Germany, more luck and the eventual winning goal to make it 1-0. So it was the West Germans who played the Dutch in the final in Munich that year instead of "Gorski's Eagles." West Germany went on to win that World Cup.
With UEFA Euro 2012 around the corner, Poland has to do everything in their power with coach Smuda to turn things around so they don't repeat Austria's first round ouster from 2008 as a co-host. I fear seeing Poland going out in the first round at Euro 2012 just like they did at the last two World Cups. For Euro 2012, a quadrennial football tournament showcasing Europe's elite national teams, Poland will get lucky if they can somehow squeeze of out the first round and advance to the quarterfinals. I hope that everyone realizes that this is the only thing Poland can do at this point in a tournament like the European Football Championship. If they can pull it off (which I want so much), then that would be a big success. Poland hasn't progressed from the first round of a major football tournament since the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. In 2008 they failed to move on after three games in their European Championship debut in Austria. So by 2012 it'll be 26 years that Poland has been stuck and unable to get to the second round in a World Cup or European Cup. Therefore, I'd say it's about time to break that trend and start playing at least four games at a major competition. If they can get past their opposition on home soil in round #1, then that will make up for the failed attempt at Euro 2008.
The Polish side has given us highlights of good play during the 2000's in various matches against mixed opposition. In 2002, Poland displayed only what might of been and what their fans dreamt of for the first two games, with a 3-1 win vs the USA in the final group game of that year's World Cup. Four years later, Poland beat another defeated team like themselves also in what was the final group match of a World Cup, as they wrote off Costa Rica 2-1. A game earlier in this same World Cup the Poles held Germany scoreless for 90 minutes until Swiss substitute Oliver Neuville crashed the Polish party by scoring off of a David Odonkor pass to steal the show and give Germany the 1-0 win. Then nearly a year and a half later, Poland sealed their first-ever UEFA European Championship qualification in 13 attempts. That following year, in 2008, Poland traveled to Austria as one of the underdogs of Euro 2008. What they did in this tourney however that they didn't do in the previous two World Cups was not lose the first two games of the group. Against tournament co-hosts Austria in the second game Poland was on its way to a win until a Howard Webb-assigned penalty kick gave Austria a tying goal and made the final score be 1-1. Poland played considerably well in this game for a good 60 minutes since opening up the scoring.
There is no doubt that Poland's biggest dilemma since returning to the world stage earlier this decade for the first time since 1986 has been poor defense. At the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups, coupled in with UEFA EURO 2008, the "White and Red" allowed 15 goals! This isn't good news for a team that only managed to score a total of 6 goals over the course of these three tournaments. It looks like Poland could use a little help from Italy-caliber defenders. Despite this, Poland have not really had a problem in goal over the course of this period. This is thanks to Celtic Glasgow's Artur Boruc, who received regular call-ups to the national team during Leo Beenhakker's throne. The fact that the Poles conceded eight goals at the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008 combined was mostly his teammates' fault, the slouchy defenders, not his. With all this information, what could Poland honestly be able to accomplish at the 2010 World Cup even if they qualified? Maybe score one or no goals while losing all three group matches in my worst nightmare.
Poland is in its biggest footballing crisis to date (currently ranked 56th by FIFA), and so the way the team has been playing lately is humiliating and scary to watch. In fact, if they traveled to Africa, then their performance would have the possibility of being the worst in the national team's history in the World Cup (even worse than the showing from the 2006 World Cup!). This is why something needs to be done soon to fix this problem so that Polish fans can enjoy Euro 2012 in peace, not in dismay, having to wipe their tears away.