Post inspired by and dedicated to Jerzy Brzęczek
25. DENMARK 8-0 POLAND (Friendly, 1948)
Basically a honorable mention. This friendly held shortly after the World War II still remains our highest defeat in history. Ironically, it was the only match of Kazimierz Górski
in the national team as a player. In the 70s he became the best manager in our history. 24. POLAND 0-0 (5-4 PENALTIES) NEW ZEALAND (Friendly Cup Final, 1999)
The circumstances of this match are worse than the result. In June 1999, Poland NT (with squad consisting mostly of domestic league players) flew to Bangkok to take part in so-called "Four Nations Tournament" with Thailand, New Zealand and
Brazil Brazil B
Brazil Z team. Occasional friendlies of Poland B in exotic places began back in the 1980s and were an opportunity for a lot of average players to make international debut. Tradition finally died in 2014, when Ekstraklasa All-Stars defeated Moldovan League All-Stars 1-0 in Abu Dhabi. Yeah, that happened. 23. JAPAN 5-0 POLAND (Friendly, 1996)
Another exotic friendly, this time in Hong Kong. It's worth noting that in the 90s Ekstraklasa was nowhere as bad as it's now. 6 players from the first eleven represented Widzew Łódź - club which qualified to Champions League just a few months later.
Somehow, they managed to lost 0-5 with Japan. Fun fact: 4th goal was scored by famous Kazuyoshi Miura, who is still a professional footballer today at 53. 22. POLAND 1-3 FINLAND (EURO 2008 Qualifiers, 2006)
The first EURO 2008 Qualifiers match and the second match with Dutch manager Leo Beenhakker
. After awful loss, people wondered: "If we lose at home with the Finns, what will happen in the clash with Portugal, Serbia or Belgium?" After the disastrous World Cup in Germany, we have confirmed conviction that our footballers are useless and in the future we will face only humiliation. Liverpool's goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek lost his place in the national team for 3 years.
Thankfully, later things got better. 21. POLAND 5-0 SAN MARINO / SAN MARINO 1-5 POLAND (WC 2014 Qualifiers, 2013)
Sometimes you can score 5 and your match is still embarrassing. At home Lewandowski needed two penalties to finally score his first goals in qualifiers (he was awful at national team then).
In the last minutes, San Marino had a good opportunity. A few months later, they actually managed to score an equaliser. Fornalik's tenure as a manager was a time of struggling with any team. Any... 20. MOLDOVA 1-1 POLAND (WC 2014 Qualifiers, 2013)
Yes, Moldova too. Just 2 weeks earlier Błaszczykowski and Lewandowski played in Champions League final with Borussia, but their national team wasn't able to beat this powerhouse. After that match, it was clear that our chances for qualifying are only mathematical. By the way, 3 days earlier we destroyed Liechtenstein 2-0. 19. LUXEMBOURG 2-3 POLAND (EURO 2000 Qualifiers, 1999)
Those were the only goals scored by Luxembourg in qualifiers. Even with such rival team, manager Janusz Wójcik (coach of Polish NT at 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, we took 2nd place) still decided to use 5 defenders. Despite winning 3-0 until the last 15 minutes, this game somehow became nervous. 18. AUSTRIA 1-1 POLAND (EURO 2008)
Typical Polish scenario - qulifiers were beautiful, tournament was not. After predictable 0-2 loss with Germany in the first match, we had to face host team in traditional mecz o wszystko
(match for everything). In 30th minute naturalized Brazilian Roger Guerreiro scored an offside goal and... we didn't do much more. The last minutes of the game were pure parking bus combined with time wasting. Of course, Austrians equalised in 90+3' from unnecessary penalty. We were already wondering how to defeat Croatia in third match and then... knife in the back.
Howard Webb became public enemy number 1 in Poland, even despite fact that our goal should've been disallowed. 4 days later we lost 0-1 with Croatia. 17. NORTHERN IRELAND 3-2 POLAND (WC 2010 Qualifiers, 2009)
Leo Beenhakker's second qualifiers were nowhere as successful as the first ones. Artur Boruc's mistakes (check out third goal for the Irish) deeply complicated our situation. It was possibly the worst performance of his career. 16. GEORGIA 3-0 POLAND (WC 1998 Qualifiers, 1997)
Our chances for qualifying were purely theoretical before any match has even started. Losses with England and Italy were obvious. After sacking manager Antoni Piechniczek, Polish FA hired aforementioned Janusz Wójcik, hero of 1992 Olympics. His popular support dropped quickly. This game could be a reason why Wójcik's tactics became way more defensive in the following years. 15. POLAND 0-1 SLOVAKIA (WC 2010 Qualifiers, 2009)
The end of qualifiers in which we were better than only San Marino.
A symbol of these times: match played with a handful of fans on almost empty stadium, snow storm, own goal. Slovaks won and celebrated their qualification, so there was immediately an element of jealousy and comparison: Why they can and we can't? Do we have smaller football potential than Slovakia? 14. POLAND 1-0 SAN MARINO (WC 1994 Qualifiers, 1993)
It's hard to believe, but Fornalik era 5-0/1-5 weren't even our worst performances against this powerhouse. In 1993, we won thanks to Jan Furtok's infamous handball goal. Literal fraud saved us from a draw with bakers and waiters. Well, every country has his own Maradona. 13. SLOVAKIA 4-1 POLAND (EURO 1996 Qualifiers, 1995)
The links between Polish football and logic are generally quite loose, but these qualifiers were the peak. Two draws with France, but also a terrible game with Israel. 5-0 with Slovakia at home, then 1-4 away. It was the last match of Atletico Madrid forward Roman Kosecki in the national team. He got a red card for coming off the pitch too slowly. 12. POLAND 1-3 UKRAINE (WC 2014 Qualifiers, 2013)
Another match of Fornalik's tenure. He has many qualities, but was way too soft for such job. Before this game our situation was pretty good and people were fairly optimistic. Of course, we were losing 0-2 after 7 minutes. That's what happens when you have no opinions and blindly follow what pundits say (this weird squad was their idea). 11. DENMARK 4-0 POLAND (WC 2018 Qualifiers, 2017)
Ironically enough, this game happened at our peak in FIFA Rankings - 5th place. Even though we qualified for 2018 World Cup easily, 0-4 loss with Denmark was extremely significant as a turning point. After the match, coach of Danish NT Ade Hareide said: "Poles are very easy to decipher"
. Our manager Adam Nawałka turned out to be really insecure and changed his approach. Three at the back, a lot of new players (mainly from Ekstraklasa), unsuccessful attempts to create some plan B... The team has lost confidence. This is why Denmark was such a severe and painful defeat. It pushed us on the road that ended up in a chasm. 10. JAPAN 0-1 POLAND (WC 2018)
The highest classified win in this ranking and probably the "funniest" game of all (if you like dark humour). Scenario of every World Cup in 21st century for Poland NT was well-known:
a) mecz otwarcia
(opening match) - loss
b) mecz o wszystko
(match for everything) - loss
c) mecz o honor
(match for honor) - win
In 2018 we won the 3rd game again, but this time, it didn't have much in common with honor. Japanese were satisfied with losing 0-1 (Colombia defeated Senegal in another group H match) and Poles didn't do much to score more. The last ten minutes were an abomination.
Jakub Błaszczykowski couldn't even get on the pitch because boring passing wasn't interrupted. In order to help him, manager Nawałka suggested Kamil Grosicki to pretend being injuried.
On press conference he praised team for fulfiling "low pressing" tactics, which obviously became a meme. 9. SPAIN 6-0 POLAND (Friendly, 2010) "We may lose even 0-9, but we have to attack."
- Franciszek Smuda, manager
Coach Franciszek Smuda was an idealist. He said that he could lose, but will consistently use offensive tactics. However, after the match with Spain, he changed all his plans. 0-2 after 15 minutes. Two own goals. We were used to conceding 3 or even 4 goals, but not 6. After the game, Polish players immediately started begging Spaniards for their shirts. It was pathetic. Worth noting, that it was the last friendly before 2010 World Cup, which Spain won scoring only 8 goals in whole tournament. 8. PORTUGAL 4-0 POLAND (WC 2002) "Tomasz Hajto to wielki atleta. Ograł go w Korei Pedro Pauleta."
Another match for everything, this time after 0-2 loss with South Korea. Portuguese striker Pedro Pauleta humiliated Polish defence, especially Schalke 04 player Tomasz Hajto
. Even today
his "efforts" are remembered as one of the worst individual performances in Poland NT history. At least we defeated USA 3-1 in match for honor. Yay. 7. POLAND 0-0 CYPRUS (EURO 1988 Qualifiers, 1987) "Working as a coach is like kissing tiger's ass - doubtful pleasure, high risk"
- Wojciech Łazarek, manager
1982 - 3rd place on the World Cup
1986 - round of 16
1987 - 0-0 with team on San Marino/Gibraltar level at that time
The decline of Polish football in the 80s was drastic. Even with 6 forwards on the pitch Poland couldn't score. The whole relatively good atmosphere around team has been irreversibly damaged. Can you imagine Netherlands or Switzerland drawing with Andorra today? That's what happened then. This game was held in 1987 and could be considered as the 90s prequel. 6. POLAND 0-1 LATVIA (EURO 2004 Qualifiers, 2002) Our group
seemed to be relatively easy. Sweden, Hungary, Latvia and San Marino? Who wouldn't be happy after years of playing with England or Italy. Unfortunately, Zbigniew Boniek proved that being brilliant footballer doesn't make you a good coach. Our situation became complicated already after second game. Poland significantly contributed to the greatest success in history of Latvian football. 5. SLOVENIA 3-0 POLAND (WC 2010 Qualifiers, 2009)
The third mentioned match of these cursed qualifiers. Before this game, they still could be saved, but we fastly discovered we were just delusional. Slovenians were doing whatever they wanted. After the match, Polish FA President Grzegorz Lato fired manager Leo Beenhakker in a live interview, before talking with him. The game was immortalized by legendary commentator Dariusz Szpakowski, who spent last ten minutes on ranting about Beenhakker and Polish football in general while totally ignoring what's happening on the pitch. 4. POLAND 0-2 ECUADOR (WC 2006) "Shame, embarassment, disgrace, ignominy, don't come back"
Advancing from this group
seemed like a realistic aim. "Everyone will beat Costa Rica, everyone will lose with Germany, we just need to defeat this average team from South America". How painful it was to see the unsuccessful attempts to create at least one sensible opportunity at a rival's goal. First shot on target? Six minutes before the end. As you may expect, obviously we lost match for everything too, but won match for honor. Different year, same shit. 3. CZECHIA 1-0 POLAND (EURO 2012) "If we don't advance from this group, we are worth nothing."
- Jerzy Dudek
Hard agree. It was arguably the easiest group in European Championship history.
The weakest team from every pot. Moreover, this time we were playing at home. In order to make competitions more attractive, match for everything and match for honor were switched. After 1-1 draw with Russia, all 4 teams could advance. Poles had many opportunities, but Czechs actually controlled the game. As long as they needed 0-0 draw, it was 0-0. When they found out they need to win, they scored immediately. The last place in a group of laugh at home. Shame. 2. SOUTH KOREA 2-0 POLAND (WC 2002) "First 15 minutes were perfect!"
- Jerzy Engel, manager
The match that traumatised the generation. First qualification for the World Cup since 1986. It was the most overhyped team in Polish history. Manager, players and a lot of fans unironically believed we are going to win some medals and the question is which color.
Even if they didn't believe this, saying such things was still idiotic. Koreans jumped higher despite being lower. Poles looked like they played another match just a few hours earlier. Unforgettable experience for Polish millennials. At the same time, just a trailer of what was going to happen in the following years. "We don't care. After all, we have as many points as France and other famous teams."
- Michał Listkiewicz, President of Polish FA 1. POLAND 1-2 SENEGAL / POLAND 0-3 COLOMBIA (WC 2018)
These matches were about something more than just 3 points in the group table. These matches were about not wasting the great generation of Polish footballers, the greatest since the 80s. It seemed that at EURO 2016, this team was just beginning and was supposed to peak in Russia. Unfortunately, it turned out that the start of a great adventure, was in fact the end of it. After the first game one could again
be under the illusion that not everything was yet lost. In practice, however, it was difficult to be optimistic in any way. Senegal defeated us, and maybe even we defeated ourselves, because both goals were a joke. Maybe losing with them doesn't seem as bad as with Ecuador, but the context matters. This time, people had right to dream, they had right to have expectations. The game with Senegal was a funeral of team from EURO 2016. The game with Colombia was like taking the football red pill. We saw how different we are from the teams we considered equal to us.
See you on EURO 2021...