ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – Poland’s journey to Euro 2020 ended early Wednesday when it finished last in Group E with just one point after a 3-2 loss to Sweden – far from home ambition to compete with their success of 2016 when they reached the quarterfinals.
After a surprise 2-1 loss in their opener to lower-ranked Slovakia, Poland got their campaign back on track with a 1-1 draw against Spain.
They then needed three points against Sweden to reach the round of 16. Their failing defense, however, proved their loss: Poland conceded six goals in three games, against just two goals in five games in the 2016 campaign.
The early trip home is largely the result of an unholy mix of individual mistakes, bad luck, missing key players and tactical choices from coach Paulo Sousa.
Deprived of first-team regulars such as Arkadiusz Milik of Olympique de Marseille and Krzysztof Piatek of Hertha Berlin due to injuries, Poland had to rely on its superstar Robert Lewandowski, who in the opening match against the Slovakia – unlike previous matches under Sousa – acted alone. striker.
Against Sweden, the lack of a solid air presence in the face of the formidable defense proved too important.
Although Lewandowski, winner of the 2021 European Golden Shoe, managed to score two more goals on his tournament account in the final match, it was not enough to make up for the bitter loss suffered against Slovakia and to conclude the game. last chance against Sweden in his favor.
“You can’t deny our will to fight, our ambition and our determination, but we were lacking something – probably skills – to win the game and keep going,” Lewandowski said on Polish television after the game.
Sousa’s men entered the opener against Slovakia in hopes of relieving the pressure before facing Group E favorites Spain. However, the first goal against his side of the tournament from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and two yellow cards for Gregorz Krychowiak killed the momentum before Milan Skriniar sealed Poland’s defeat with a late goal.
A draw against Spain was a good moral boost, but the weakness of the Polish defense was still visible. They lacked chemistry and the passes went both too far and too short, failing to build a solid attack.
“We cannot concede stupid goals that we conceded in these games,” Sousa said after the game against Sweden.
In charge for five months, Sousa has only managed to win one of his eight matches for Poland, a World Cup qualifier against Andorra. He hopes to perform better in the near future if he plans to keep his post beyond the fall.
(Reporting by Tommy Lund and Anita Kobylinska, additional reporting by Bartosz Dabrowski; editing by Milla Nissi and Hugh Lawson)