Warsaw In Your Pocket - Great Football Exhibition





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Published on May 29, 2012

A tour of the Great Football exhibition in Warsaw's Palace of Culture. The exhibition features prominently the Polish team of the 70s and early 80s, the Gorski Eagles.

It took the appointment of coach Kazimierz Górski in 1970 to make Poland a stronger team. Only eighteen months into the job Górski had led his side to the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, with Kazimierz Deyna (later of Manchester City) scoring twice in an exciting 2-1 win over Hungary in the final.

Just a year later, one of the most famous matches in Poland's history was played at Wembley. After a heroic performance from goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski -- nicknamed 'the clown' by Brian Clough -- a one-all draw was enough to earn Górski's side a place at the 1974 World Cup finals. Impressive performances in Germany, including defeats of Argentina and Italy and a 7-0 thumping of Haiti in the group stage, saw Poland up against the West German hosts in the semi-final. The match was played in horrible conditions on a water-logged pitch (many Polish fans will still claim the Germans watered the pitch despite heavy rain to nullify the Poles' passing game) with the only goal of the game coming from Gerd Muller. In the match for third-place Poland were better than Brazil and Grzegorz Lato, current president of the Polish FA, scored his seventh goal of the tournament winning the Golden Boot in the process (incidentally beating his strike partner Andrzej Szarmach, whose tally stood at 6).

After winning the silver medal at the 1976 Olympics, qualification for the 1978 World Cup quickly followed. An impressive start put Jacek Gmoch's squad through to the second round, but a win over Peru was not enough following defeats to Argentina (0-2, with Deyna missing a penalty) and Brazil (1-2).

A new head-coach, Antoni Piechniczek, was brought in during 1981 to try to unite an unsettled camp but as he took over the team, Martial Law was introduced in Poland hitting his team's preparations for the 1982 World Cup. With only domestic players available, Poland started with two goalless draws but then a 5-1 win over Peru saw them advance. In the next round, a fantastic performance from hat-trick hero Zbigniew Boniek gave Poland a 3-0 win over Belgium, while a solid 0-0 draw with the Soviet Union won them another semi-final place. Crucially denied the skills of the suspended Boniek, Poland suffered a 0-2 defeat to eventual winners Italy, yet an exciting 3-2 win over France in the third-place game was still regarded as a huge success back in Poland.

Poland missed out on qualification for the 1984 European Championships, while the most important legacy of a disappointing performance in the 1986 World Cup -- where an early exit was confirmed after a Gary Linekar inspired 0-3 defeat to England -- was 'Boniek's curse'. The then Roma striker concluded that Poles wouldn't see their team again at a major tournament for sixteen years.

Boniek was right. The 1990s witnessed the waste of a wonderful young team - silver medallists at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. With the domestic game sinking deeper into corruption, fans watched the disappearnce of Polish clubs from the group stage of the Champions League (Widzew Łódź were the last, in 1996). Boniek's curse ended when Jerzy Engel's team were the first European team to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, but disastrous performances against Korea (0-2) and Portugal (0-4) meant it was a short trip. Similarly poor performances meant that Poland failed to advance beyond the group stage at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. The Polish FA then decided that it was time to give a foreign coach a chance.

Dutchman Leo Beenhakker took on the role and he inspired the team during Euro 2008 qualification, winning 2-1 in style against Portugal thanks to Ebi Smolarek's brace. Unfortunately, while Poland yet again had enough class to qualify for the finals they could not advance from their group once at the tournament. However, failure in qualification for the 2010 World Cup saw the Dutchman unceremoniously sacked live on TV, a few minutes after the 0-3 away defeat to Slovenia, during an interview with the Polish FA president, Grzegorz Lato.
For more on football in Poland go to http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/EU...


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