For many years to come, we will discuss the performance of the Polish national team at the World Cup in Qatar. While it is difficult to make reservations about our team’s result, our performance was far from expected.
Assessing the Polish national team after the World Cup in Qatar is difficult. On the one hand, we advanced to the round of sixteen, which we have not done since 1986. On the other hand, all statistics show that we played old football. , and Wojciech Szczęsny, who was in an exceptional position, ensured our promotion.
Poland played very defensive football. Supporters of this gameplay explain that this is what we can afford at the moment. This is why we compare Poland to other teams that play defensive football. Japan, which, like us, reached the 1/8 finals and lost the championship here, and Morocco, which opened the championship and lost only in the semi-finals to France. For comparison, we also show basic stats (ball possession, shots at opponents and our own goal), as well as expected goals ratio (xG) for us and our opponents. We publish data up to and including the semi-finals.
Szczesny won this promotion
Here we see a huge disparity between our goals scored and conceded (we had a goal ratio of 3:5), which is indicative of Wojciech Szczęsny’s role. During the tournament, the Polish goalkeeper reached the pinnacle of his skill. In the previous tournament, we conceded as many as 5 goals, although the percentage of expected goals for opponents was much lower. By the way, it should be noted that Wojciech Szczecin had as many as 26 saved shots, and, for example, the goalkeeper of Japan scored 14.
– In the group stage, we stayed in the match for the promotion mainly thanks to the goalkeeper’s actions and the effectiveness of his game at the technical level, – says coach and analyst Marek Marchiniak, who worked during previous tournaments on behalf of the teams’ Instat. Belgium and Sweden.
– There is an opinion that we have achieved sporting success and certainly made a step forward in terms of the result, but it is worth asking whether the team has made progress in terms of the purely sporting quality of the game – Marciniak asks.
“Comparing championship to championship, we create fewer chances in attack. In 2018 we had 5 per game, now 4.3 … we play one game more. The general mood after the World Cup in Russia was not the best, because we only scored goals from set-pieces – Add.
Same with stocks. In Russia, we had 10 shots per match, now 7. Of course, this in favor of Michniewitz’s Poland can be explained by the quality of the opponents. Then we had three strong rivals, Senegal, Colombia and Japan, and now far from weak Saudi Arabia and mighty Mexico, two world emperors. Against Argentina, we only had 4 shots, and interestingly we made up the stats with the second finalist, France, scoring as many as 11 times.
We played in a negative way, “We stopped the bus”
Now we also have fewer passes. In Russia 516, in Qatar 383 per match, which shows us what strategy is. In Russia, we kept the ball much more, and now we get rid of it faster.
– Besides, the numbers clearly show that Poland played passive football – says Marciniak, who has already shown before the tournament that our team is more standing and waiting than reacting to events, trying to catch the ball and then quickly running away.
Let’s look at the comparison between Poland and Japan. We were an average of 7% lower in pressure. Playing time, while the Japanese also play defensively, is 12 percent. We lobbed least with Argentina (4%) and most lobbied with France (10%), while we lobbied least with Croatia (7%) and most with Costa Rica (16%).
“This data tells us that there must be a lot of action on our part in hard, aggressive pressing. Instead, the team performed temporary ‘pressure jumps’ – says Marciniak.
Another statistic that shows we played passively is the number of fouls. It’s debatable, of course, because you might as well say we got the ball clean. But let us present it out of the duty of the historian.
After all, the statistics say a lot. How much time did we spend on low block? Let’s show that there are three types of blocks. High, when we try to stop the opponent near his penalty area, medium, when we slow down his movements in the middle and try to grab the ball there, and low, which the fans usually call “stopping the bus”. Here we will see again how we got out against the background of Japan.
The Japanese played at a low mass of 29 percent. Playing time, at least 5 percent. against Costa Rica and the largest against Spain, 46 percent.
Our average is 36 percent, the highest is 43 percent. With Argentina, no less than 28 per cent. with Mexico. With Arabia, we spent 34 percent on a low-rise building, and 30 percent in France. This means that we spend more than a third of our time “parking the bus in the box”. We know from within the team that our captain, Robert Lewandowski, was embarrassed by the tactical level of the Polish team.
What is the idea of attack? no one knows
When it comes to playing offensively, there is an interesting statistic called . Create a passing line, which shows if players have the option to pass. So it says a lot about the organization of the offensive game. Again, we compare Poland to Japan. We had 388 passing streaks per game (less than 296 against Argentina, most 501 against France), while the Japanese had 513 per game (least 315 against Spain, most 699 against Costa Rica). This shows us that the Polish footballer often had no one to play with.
Perhaps none of our players asked for it, and that may have been due to the tactic often being to take the game to the top to Robert Lewandowski as quickly as possible. “Lefts” in Barcelona or earlier in Bayern played much more on the ground. Here he is one of the leaders when it comes to playing in the air.
As you can see, Lewandowski is not the only striker who had to fight in the air. However, as the cross-counting statistics show, most of the forwards simply fought off crosses, and Lewandowski, like the forwards from Australia, collected long balls.
Such a long ball game also meant we didn’t use our wingers, players who should theoretically have an advantage in a one-on-one match.
On average, each team has had 26 dribbles in a World Cup, 60% of which have been dribbles. won – won. The Poles had a 59% dribbling win rate, so they were close to average, but only 17% per game. For comparison, in Russia we had 20 dribbles per match and only 48 percent. won – won. So we played a lot less despite the high quality on the wings. This can be interpreted in different ways: it is either a strategy, or a lack of courage to engage in duels.
By comparison, the Moroccans had 30 dribbles per game. Of course, they are superbly technically trained, but it should also be noted that we have also had players who feel good about this element, such as Jakub Kaminski, Piotr Zielinski, Michal Skora, Sebastian Szymanski, Mate Cash or Robert Lewandowski.
As for the midfielders, they were clearly hampered by a strategy that often went wrong in midfield.
Lots of stats that clearly show us the strategy chosen by Michniewicz, i.e. passive play, long ball and great chance up front.
Could Michniewicz have chosen the best?
When it comes to personnel choices, there are not many objections to selection. When it comes to a starting XI, it’s hard to go wrong with the selector. If there are any objections, they will most likely be about the possibility of change. Michniewicz hasn’t left himself many options when it comes to midfield. So you can speculate if Mateusz Klich or Karol Linetty will be able to create a substitute, hold the ball, and play better in the middle. We didn’t have players who were able to “play the ball” in the middle of the field. Instead, the selector brought out Szymon Żurkowski, who could break out of the middle with a quick attack. But he didn’t use it. Of course, here too you must realize that neither Cliche nor Linetti could save the staff.
Christian Bilic was a player who was supposed to be strong both in defense and in attack, but the World Cup showed that his time – despite great odds – had not yet come.
They seem afraid
The question is whether the players are mentally ready for the World Cup. Michniewicz’s statements, which were often concerned before the World Cup with the quality of the players, certainly did not give them confidence. We asked Mariusz Paszkowski, of Brain Training System, a company that specializes in mental training, to rate:
– The team in its current composition had a lot of capital in the form of players of the highest European level. So it’s baffling that despite this, we couldn’t use even a small percentage of potential mainly in attack, with players like Lewandowski, Zielinski and Milik in the squad. The worst thing in all this is that the players, before the World Cup, after the match with Chile, spoke very shyly about the style of play of the national team, about the capabilities or skills of the national team players.
– Did the mentality of our players fail in this situation? Indeed, it is difficult to say, because apart from the match against France, our players did not have much opportunity to test their skills, because they were hidden behind a double guard. From a psychology point of view, it is certainly important not to inflate the balloon too much before such events, focusing mainly on the next small steps or the thinking task, but it is also important to add confidence to the players and build themselves up. trust.
Such a narrative, both from the coach and later on from the players, certainly did not help build optimal posture, control emotions and deal with stress. This was evident, among other things, during the penalty kicks of our captain, who until the World Cup performed them flawlessly, using, among other things, their proven techniques for lowering arousal, such as the pre-eleven routine or breathing techniques. – says Paszkowski, former director of the Coervera system (the most popular training system) in Poland.
He noted that the Polish football players accepted the coach’s version in the media, but with time it turned out that they did it in spite of themselves. While the statements of defensive players like Krychowiak can be understood (“proper defending, moving and using one or even half a stance, it gives us the win. We’ll play in the World Cup anyway”), Lewandowski’s quotes about “playing wisdom” are actually harder.
– The statements of the prominent players after the last match against France, who clearly criticized the defensive style of the national team, were puzzling, describing it earlier as a “smart game.” Was the team lacking cohesion and synergy? It is difficult to say without being in the middle of the national team, but the quoted data prove that not all players wanted to follow the same path as the national team coach, – notes Paszkowski.
“What is missing?” Certainly courage and self-confidence, which should be instilled in the team by coach Michniewich. This courage has been shown by many national teams in this World Cup. Unfortunately, we opted for minimalism… would we have let the group play a bit more daring? Of course, we don’t know this, but we also don’t know if we wouldn’t go much further if we played in every match like the current finalist of the tournament, – adds the expert from the “brain training system”.
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