Wednesday, June 07, 2006

World Cup Spotlight: Poland

Poland's 2002 World Cup experience was nothing short of miserable, unluckily beginning with a match against the home squad in Busan, South Korea and ending in a humiliating exit at the bottom of their group, having failed to garner any goals at all save for a 3-1 win against the United States. They once again face the misfortune of tangling with the home team in the group stage when they play against Germany on June 14, but they have a chance to build some confidence first in their opening-day match against Ecuador. This is a squad that will be grateful to see the round of sixteen: anything beyond that is gravy.

That's not to say that they aren't capable, only that Poland seems like one of the unknowns. This year's squad is either old or experienced, depending on who you talk to. They were strong in the qualifiers, and have twice finished in 3rd place--once in Germany--but that was years ago, 1974 and 1982. And then there is the fact that Poland has never beaten Germany. This is the kind of statistic that always represents a psychological hurdle for a squad--but a win under those conditions means all bets are off. Once the natural order of things is upset, anything might happen.

And do not underestimate this: when I lived in the Czech Republic, I found many Czechs still harboring a deep-seated resentment of the two countries that had occupied them in the twentieth century, Germany and Russia. There might well be a similar sentiment in their northern neighbors. The World Cup is a place where old wounds may reopen under (mostly) more civil circumstances; perhaps this will be Poland's year to settle some old scores on the pitch while redressing the disappointment of their 2002 campaign.


Chigger Christ said...

I inexplicably find myself rooting for former Eastern Bloc teams. Or maybe my fondness for polish dogs has stained a rationality that was not spotless to begin with. Either way, go unpronouncable surnames!

Lynda said...

Ah, the reason we are drawn to certain teams is often inexplicable!

Although it was cool to see Ecuador do so well, I felt bad for Poland and their fans today. I really hope Poland beats Germany. (Who played really well, by the way--attacking, exciting football.)

As far as the Eastern Bloc goes, I've got my eye on the Czech Republic as a dark horse.