Is a big win too little, too late? – San Marino preview

Photo: Ryan Hubbard

Photo: Ryan Hubbard

After Friday’s hugely disappointing loss to Ukraine, the world’s joint-lowest ranked side, San Marino, are the next visitors to Stadion Narodowy. Whilst Waldemar Fornalik’s side were slipping to their first defeat of the campaign, the Sammarinese were in the process of shipping eight goals at home to England, taking the number in their “conceded” column up to 24. Now Fornalik knows that the Warsaw crowd will settle for no less than a comprehensive victory as Poland look to somehow remain in the hunt for World Cup Qualification.

Whilst a cricket score is not only demanded, but expected by the Polish faithful, it is the performance that needs to be worked on more than the goal difference. Too many anonymous and poor showings were the downfall against their eastern neighbours on Friday, but even with more of the same, the Białe-Orły should have enough about them to defeat one of European football’s minnows. However if they are unable to perform and bond as a team in a lower-pressure environment, then there is little hope of Waldemar Fornalik being able to salvage anything from this campaign.

Despite anything other than three-points on Friday not being an option, it’s foolish to think that Fornalik won’t be looking towards the summer’s qualifier with Moldova with one eye. Key players such as Łukasz Piszczek, Jakub Błaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski seem unlikely to lose their spots for June’s trip to Chisnau, however without a single stand-out performance against Ukraine, it is a complete mystery who will join them in that starting eleven. The San Marino clash could see Fornalik give a chance to a few of the fringe players to stake their claim for a starting berth in Moldova, but could equally stick with the majority of his team from Friday in an attempt to build confidence in a team which is ever so clearly lacking.

Having lost their places recently, players such as Jakub Wawrzyniak, Ariel Borysiuk and Eugen Polański will be hoping to fight their way back into Fornalik’s plans, whilst young stars such as Arkadiusz Milik, Bartosz Salamon and Łukasz Teodorczyk will be looking for their chance to become a more regular part of the national team setup.

If the game pans out as expected, it will be an easy evening in Warsaw for the Polish back-line. After being turned inside out on a number of occasions by the Ukrainian attack, Fornalik may look to change the team around slightly, and the Sammarinese front-line – having failed to score in their last 23 competitive games – should provide little threat to whichever back-four Fornalik chooses to field.

It is the same story further up the field, as the attack looks to improve it’s conversion rate. Since Euro 2012, Poland’s senior team have scored four goals through defenders – the same number as their midfielders and strikers combined. In fact, there hasn’t been a competitive goal scored by a striker since Robert Lewandowski’s opener against Greece. Lewy himself is also now just fifteen minutes shy of going fifteen HOURS without a goal with the white eagle on his chest, and rather ironically, his last goal in a major tournament qualifying game came almost four years ago to the day, in a 10-0 win over Tuesday evening’s opponents. A goal or two against the tiny republic may be the spark required for Lewy to start hitting the back of the net at the same frequency for country as he does for club.

Having attempted to switch to a 4-4-2 formation, somewhat unsuccessfully, against Moldova, Fornalik may look at a game against significantly weaker opponents as a chance to give it another go. If so, Teodorczyk could partner Lewandowski in attack; but with the Dortmund striker picking up a slight knock after the Ukraine game, there is a small possibility that he could miss the game altogether. Also the situation with Bordeaux midfielder Ludovic Obraniak is another which will also come under much scrutiny by press and fans alike. With his replacement Radosław Majewski struggling to make an impact on the team on Friday, Ludo could find his way back into the team in order to drum up some kind of chemistry with the players around him, which has clearly been lacking in recent games.

A big win on Tuesday night isn’t going to set the world alight, and neither will it massively improve morale amongst a squad torn apart by rifts and poor performances. But with qualification needing a minor miracle, the pressure will be off; and maybe a few surprises in the team selection will give some of the under-performing big names a much-needed kick in the right direction.

Possible Starting XI
Boruc – Piszczek, Glik, Salamon, Wawrzyniak – Błaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Obraniak, Mierzejewski – Lewandowski, Milik

Last Six Meetings:

01/04/2009 – Poland 10-0 San Marino

10/09/2008 – San Marino 0-2 Poland

02/04/2003 – Poland 5-0 San Marino

07/09/2002 – San Marino 0-2 Poland

18/05/1993 – San Marino 0-3 Poland

28/04/1993 – Poland 1-0 San Marino

Poland take on San Marino on Tuesday 26th March at 19:45 UK time (20:45 Local).

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