Poland - Greece: First half blitz destroys unimpressive visitors
Ref.: Günther Habermann
L1: Frank Fleske
L2: Klaus-Dieter Stentzel
(All East Germany)
Written by: kaltz
Both teams had been in ‘friendly’ action on Aug 23, and both had drawn their matches: Poland at home to the USSR, Greece in Norway. This was Poland’s second test since their managerial change, where Wojciech Łazarek had been replaced by Andrzej Strejlau. The 1-1 result against what had been a largely second string Soviet side, without, for example, their Dinamo Kiev brigade, had still been an uplifting affair for the Polish, who had drawn level after a firm header from defender Dariusz Wdowczyk on the hour. They would be looking to build on that this time around, against a Greece side which had kept a clean sheet in Oslo two weeks earlier, but which had often found it tough going away from home. This was the second of three summer friendlies before the next qualifier: Bulgaria away in October.
This friendly took place only four days after the tragic passing of Polish footballing legend Kazimierz Deyna, who had died in a car crash in San Diego, USA. Deyna was well remembered for his numerous international appearances, and he’d been an integral part of the 1974 and 1978 World Cup squads which had won bronze medals in West Germany and reached the second group stage in Argentina respectively. He’d also twice reached Olympic football tournament finals, in 1972 and 1976. He’d won gold in Munich ’72. He was also a big legend at Legia Warsaw, where he’d played for 13 years before moving abroad to England (Manchester City) and the US (San Diego Soccers).
Another footballing notability who had only just passed away, and who is mentioned by the public announcer prior to the minute’s silence, was Italy’s gentleman defender Gaetano Scirea. The Juventus star had been on a scouting mission in Poland to watch Górnik Zabrze (Juventus’ opponents for the first round of the UEFA Cup) when the car he was in had collided with a lorry. This happened on Sep 3, just two days before the game.
Due to these sad events which had shaken the footballing community, the Polish players sported black armbands from kick-off.
Poland team news
The team which had lost 3-0 in London in Poland’s previous qualifier three months ago, had been a vastly experienced one, with the starting eleven averaging 30 caps. For Strejlau’s first match in charge two weeks ago, the figure had been slashed to 16 per head, with four players making their debut on the day. Three of these four were still present: defenders Krzysztof Budka and Piotr Czachowski, as well as defensive midfielder Janusz Nawrocki. Among the debutants last time around, only Zagłębie Lubin’s Marek Godlewski was out of the matchday squad.
Strejlau had left out most of the foreign brigade, rather relying on domestically based players. All but two of the 16 players in their matchday squad were plying their daily trade at home in Poland. The odd pair out were midfielder Ryszard Tarasiewicz and striker Dariusz Dziekanowski. Tarasiewicz had only moved from Śląsk in Wrocław earlier in the summer, and was now performing well for early season pace-setters Neuchâtel in the Swiss league. Tarasiewicz had netted five times in his first five matches, and whilst he’d been on a ‘barren’ run of late, he must have been pleased with the start to his career abroad. When Poland had faced the Soviet Union last month, Tarasiewicz had been busy with Neuchâtel’s league game at Bellinzona. Dziekanowski had also just completed his switch to Scottish football ahead of the 89/90 season.
Experienced foreign-based players such as Roman Wójcicki, Waldemar Matysik and Jan Furtok were nowehere to be seen. Likewise big names in the shape of Damian Łukasik and Jan Urban. The squad overhaul seemed a little dramatic. Of course, we have no insight into the availability status of each of these players, but due to successive qualification away defeats in Sweden and England, it is likely that Strejlau had opted for a different approach, and was consciously testing out different players. Poland would need to win their remaining three qualifiers to have any hopes of making it through to a fifth successive World Cup. Even that could prove not to be sufficient, depending on results in the other two groups of four teams.
Greece team news
Greece realized that their hopes of reaching Italia ’90 had long gone, but they had nevertheless had a very busy 1989: This was already their eleventh international since the turn of the year, with only two of these being qualifiers. With Antonis Georgiadis now being their third manager since the start of the qualification, there did not seem to be a necessary level of continuity around the national team.
We do not have available to us the entire Greek squad from their trip to Norway two weeks earlier, but six of the 14 players who had been in action then were absent now. Some of these were relatively big names, most notably defenders Stelios Manolas and Kostas Mavridis, their regular central defensive pairing. Busy midfielder Andreas Bonovas and forward Giannis Samaras could be added to the ‘absent big names’ category.
Georgiadis had brought a squad of 18, with four possible debutants in defenders Alexis Alexiou and Giorgos Agoroyiannis, midfielder Nikos Karageorgiou and forward Akhilleas Adamopoulos. Despite the absence of some big names, the manager still had available to him players of fine international pedigree in full-back Stratos Apostolakis, defensive midfielder Giotis Tsaloukhidis, playmaker Elias Savvidis and not least forward Dimitris Saravakos. These were surely players which Georgiadis would wish to build his foundation upon.
The TV graphics from the Polish producer had included one “A Chetzianiadis” in the number 12 shirt for the visitors. This could well have been a misspelling (as there are a few), but we have been unable to retrieve the identity of this player. There is originally just five substitutes named, numbered from 12-16, but two players in shirts 17 and 18 will appear from the start of the second half.
39 year old East German citizen Günther Habermann had been given the task of refereeing. He was from Weißensee in the state of Thuringa south west in the country, and was making his altogether third international appearance since his debut on 1 June 1988 through the friendly between the Soviet Union and Poland (2-1). Seven of the 15 players in action for Poland that day were in the squad for today’s friendly fixture. Habermann had dealt with one match in the ongoing qualification: The Group 5 meeting last September between France and Norway in Paris (1-0).
Poland and Greece had locked horns in the two most recent qualifications, the ones ahead of the 1986 World Cup and 1988 European Championships. Poland had won three from four of these encounters. The most recent clash had been the Euro ’88 qualifier in Athens which Greece had won 1-0 in April ’87. Just two Greeks remained, namely goalscorer Saravakos and midfielder Kofidis, whilst the Polish had four players participating in that match still in the squad for today’s friendly. They were defender Wdowczyk, midfielders Prusik and Tarasiewicz, as well as striker Dziekanowski.
Overall, this was the tenth meeting between the two countries. Poland had won six, Greece three since the first clash in 1963. There had been no draws.
The Polish Army Stadium, Legia Warsaw’s ‘Stadion Wojska Polskiego’, had been chosen as venue. It had been here where Poland had defeated Romania 2-1 in an April friendly. It had been a frequently used arena for the Polish national team throughout history, with this being the 43rd international to take place here since the inaugural match in 1930, a 6-0 friendly win against Latvia. It was named after Marshall Józef Piłsudski, a major political influence on the post WWI scene in Poland. Thus, the stadium carried the full name of ‘Stadion Wojska Polskiego imienia Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego’.
|1 Józef Wandzik||26||Górnik Zabrze|
|2 Zbigniew Kaczmarek||27||Legia Warszawa|
|3 Janusz Nawrocki||sub 37′||28||Katowice|
|4 Dariusz Wdowczyk (c)||sub h-t||26||Legia Warszawa|
|5 Krzysztof Budka||31||Legia Warszawa|
|6 Jacek Ziober||sub 69′||23||Łódzki|
|7 Robert Warzycha||26||Górnik Zabrze|
|8 Ryszard Tarasiewicz||27||Neuchâtel Xamax|
|9 Krzysztof Warzycha||24||Ruch Chorzów|
|10 Dariusz Dziekanowski||26||Celtic|
|11 Roman Kosecki||23||Legia Warszawa|
|12 Jarosław Bako||25||Zagłębie Lubin|
|13 Maciej Śliwowski||on 69′||22||Stal Mielec|
|14 Piotr Soczyński||on h-t||22||Olimpia Poznań|
|15 Piotr Czachowski||on 37′||22||Stal Mielec|
|16 Waldemar Prusik||28||Śląsk Wrocław|
|1 Spyros Oikonomopoulos||sub h-t||30||AEK|
|2 Stratos Apostolakis||29′||25||Olympiakos|
|3 Iakovas Khatziathanasiou||sub h-t||28||Panathinaikos|
|4 Giannis Kallitzakis||23||Panathinaikos|
|5 Giorgos Mitsibonas||26||PAOK|
|6 Giotis Tsaloukhidis||sub h-t||26||Olympiakos|
|7 Dimitris Saravakos (c)||sub h-t||28||Panathinaikos|
|8 Giorgos Agoroyiannis||23||Larissa|
|9 Thanasis Dimopoulos||26||Iraklis|
|10 Elias Savvidis||22||Olympiakos|
|11 Savvas Kofidis||sub h-t||28||Olympiakos|
|12 “A. Chetzianiadis”|
|13 Akhilleas Adamopoulos||26||Xanthi|
|14 Spyros Maragkos||on h-t||22||Panionios|
|15 Giorgos Plitsis||on h-t||26||Iraklis|
|16 Vasilis Dimitriadis||on h-t||23||Aris|
|17 Alexis Alexiou||on h-t||25||PAOK|
|18 Nikos Karageorgiou||on h-t||26||PAOK|
The minute’s silence to honour the very recent deaths of both Poland’s own Kazimierz Deyna and Italy’s World Cup winning libero Gaetano Scirea, had only lasted 12-13 seconds, but had been impeccably observed by those present. As the East German referee had held the coin toss-up, the hosts had opted to play from left to right as we were looking, leaving kick-off to the visitors. The game would be brought to life through Greece’ front pairing of Thanasis Dimopoulos and captain Dimitris Saravakos. Off we go.
Poland score immediately
It will take just a minute and 20 seconds before Poland have the lead. They soon enough after kick-off win possession inside their own half, and eventually release Krzysztof Warzycha down the right. He’s impeded by tall Greece defender Giannis Kallitzakis, and there’s a free-kick for the hosts almost by the byline, halfway between the penalty area and the corner flag. Robert Warzycha’s ball into the area’s headed clear, but Poland retrieve the ball through midfielder Janusz Nawrocki, who plays a clever little ball down the right in Robert Warzycha’s direction. The wide midfielder is somewhat fortunate when he has Giorgos Mitsibonas’ clearance struck right into him, and with the ball bouncing kindly for Warzycha, he suddenly finds himself one on one with the ‘keeper from a right-sided position inside the area. The Górnik man slots the ball between the legs of the advancing goalkeeper, and the hosts are ahead. The goal is Warzycha’s second for Poland in his ninth appearance. Perfect start for the men in white and red.
The game had maybe had an early injection of tonic through that Robert Warzycha goal, but it would fail to live up to that moment as the first half settled into a monotonous rhythm. Poland were looking to utilize combinations in order to unlock the Greek defence, and more often than not would they be attempting to make inroads along their right hand side. The Greeks, on the other hand, appeared quite direct, even if this might not have been their prefered modus operandi. They were pleased on the few occasions which they were given time and space to add a dimension of midfield creativity into their play, but several players appeared to be going through the motions in the game’s initial stages.
Poland had lined up in a 3-4-3, whilst the Greeks were in 4-4-2. Both teams were playing with a libero, something which was very common throughout the continent, though neither Krzysztof Budka, admittedly only winning his second cap since his debut recently against the Soviets during Strejlau’s first match in charge, nor Giannis Kallitzakis were very daring. Both prefered sweeping tactics rather than assist in build-up play or through taking the ball past the halfway line. In physical appearance they were not unsimilar: Both Budka and Kallitzakis were tall, robust players, whom you would not hold it against in a 50/50 challenge.
For the hosts, Józef Wandzik was making his 23rd appearance in a Poland shirt since his debut back in 1985, and while he’d hardly given the most assured impression in his one qualifier so far, the 1-0 opening win at home to Albania, the Górnik ‘keeper was a tall man with fine reach. He would not be tested in the game’s early stages, and would only feed on balls returned from his defenders. Down the other end of the pitch, Greece’ Spyros Oikonomopoulos, in his 12th international, was looking to build on his clean sheet from the recent friendly in Norway. He’d exposed himself by opening his legs up for the early goal, though it would’ve been a bonus had he saved rather than an error on his behalf that the Polish had gone a goal up.
Around libero Budka, Poland were equipped with fairly solid centre-backs in Zbigniew Kaczmarek and captain Dariusz Wdowczyk. The former was working to Budka’s advanced right, where he would often come in contact with Greece striker Dimopoulos, whilst Wdowczyk’s most frequently encountered opponent was visiting captain Saravakos. The latter hardly looked up for the battle, and defensively, the strong Legia man would look to be in control for most of the half. He would also contribute in coming forward, and a not uncommon sight from Wdowczyk was his desire to strike it from a distance. He would rarely pose a threat to the opposing goalkeepers so far in his international career, with the notable exception when coming up for an attacking set-piece in the previous game against the Soviet Union, where he’d headed in the equalizer in the second half. Kaczmarek, on the other hand, was far less attacking, but he was kind of a stylish performer who certainly did not look out of place when he attempted to stride forward ball at feet.
The four Polish midfielders were wide players Robert Warzycha, who had already introduced himself through that early goal, to the right and the fleet-footed Jacek Ziober opposite. Warzycha, who had no family relations with the other Warzycha in the team, Krzysztof, was a hard-working, industrious player who was a strong tackler and a keen contributor in an attacking capacity along the right. He did play with quite a bit of power, whereas the opposite appeared to be the case for little Ziober, who did possess fine technical ability, but who often gave away an impression of attempting too much: His dribbling would rarely lead anywhere. Still, he was committed to the cause defensively, and would aptly assist Wdowczyk along the hosts’ left hand side. Not that it was always needed, as the Greeks were hardly an attacking force to be reckoned with so far.
In the centre of the pitch, Poland had Katowice’s hard man Janusz Nawrocki in the defensive role. He was another who had won his full international debut in Strejlau’s first game in charge, and he’d obviously done enough to warrant a second chance. He seemed to relish a battle, and with the way the Greeks were set up, he would most frequently come into contact with Savvidis. Nawrocki probably did seem a bit limited in his technical repertoar, but he appeared to be aware of this fact, and so he wisely chose to assert only limited influence inside the opponents’ half of the pitch. The opposite seemed to be the case with his central midfield partner Ryszard Tarasiewicz, a player who by now was a household name across the continent. This was Tarasiewicz’ 43rd international, and having won a transfer across to Western Europe during the summer, he’d looked to build on the early promise which he’d shown for his new team Neuchâtel Xamax in Switzerland. Equipped with two excellent feet, the 27 year old was a threat from distance with his shooting. In the qualification so far, he’d shown this through his equalizing goal in Stockholm.
The three up front were interchanging positions quite frequently in the first half of the opening period, but the order of appearance still looked obvious, with the powerful Dariusz Dziekanowski through the centre, Krzysztof Warzycha to the left, and Legia’s Roman Kosecki along the right. Going forward, the Polish seemed to choose attacking more often through the centre or along the right hand channel, and so Warzycha was at times more than tempted to come into more central positions and contribute. Dziekanowski was someone who held the ball up well, and he was strong at bringing others into play. Kosecki would look to take his full-back on and get to the byline for cross delievery.
After the early goal, Poland had found themselves in the ascendancy, but although they were the better side, they were hardly boiling over with creativity. There had been an early chance for Dziekanowski to strike from distance, though only a minute after 1-0, his half volley from 25 yards had ended a couple of stories too high. On just after nine minutes, a Krzysztof Warzycha header after Ziober’s right wing corner went just wide of the upright, with Agoroyiannis unable to keep the domestic league’s leading goalscorer in check.
As for the Greeks…
What about the visitors? With the game approaching 20 minutes, they’ve showed preciously little in ways of attack, and their solitary effort had come on seven minutes through defensive midfielder Giannis Tsaloukhidis. His left-footed shot from 25 yards had cleared the bar by some margin, and so never threatened the Polish goal. Greece had not had plenty of opportunities to showcase their attacking credentials, and when it had happened, they had lacked in cohesion, with little pattern of play. By far the more significant player in coming forward had been midfielder Savvidis, who looked an exception in a team otherwise bereft of zest and desire.
Defensively, the visitors had kept their shape, even if they’d been pierced open through that early goal. It had been unfortunate that Mitsibonas’ attempted clearance had fallen kindly for Warzycha who went on to score through Oikonomopoulos’ legs, but they would now need to remain composed in order not to go on and concede again. Undeniably, this Greek edition, even if they were now under a new regime’s responsibility, had shown a tendency to drop in morale levels once behind, and although this was just a friendly, they could not allow themselves for this to happen. This was, after all, an important test ahead of their two remaining qualifiers, and after two big away defeats in Romania and Denmark already, they’d not want to ship another bucketload in Bulgaria in their October qualifier.
With Oikonomopoulos and Kallitzakis accounted for already, the next player in line is centre-back Giorgos Mitsibonas of PAOK. He does seem to be the more adept in possession among the two central defenders, though he plays ahead of Kallitzakis, accepting a role in which transportation of the ball into the opposition’s half is among his duties. This particular bit in his tactical reference appears to suit him, whereas he seems less confident when coming into challenges with opposing players, and perhaps especially when the opposing player in question happens to be one of sound physical attributes. Hence, the Mitsibonas/Dziekanowski match-up is not a favourable one for the Greeks. Fortunately, Poland do not play it much into the air for the big striker to deal with. Still, with the Polish front three displaying such a fine level of mobility, Mitsibonas has his work cut out, and he needs to be alert at all times to not lose a player out of sight and through on goal.
The two full-backs are Stratos Apostolakis to the right and Iakovas Khatziathanasiou down the left. The pair’s probably considered first team regulars for the two full-back positions, even if Olympiakos’ 25 year old Apostolakis had missed out on their first two qualifiers. I am not sure whether it had actually been a big miss, as he was somewhat limited in his play. Granted, he did seem to have a fine standing within their ranks, but he did not possess an abundance of technical talent, and so was less influental when coming forward, unless he had a lot of space in which to operate. Defensively, he was ok, little more. Khatziathanasiou, who usually displayed a fine level of tenacity, came across as a more difficult opponent for an opposing wide player. His tackling was strong, and he was often well positioned in accordance to the rest of their defence. Khatziathanasiou also had his limitations when coming forward, and so he devoted less effort and energy to this feature of his play, something which seemed wise enough.
In midfield, Greece, like the hosts, had players in both wide positions as well as a defensive and an attacking man in the central roles. To the right was a debutant in the shape of Larissa’s 23 year old Giorgos Agoroyiannis. He appeared less confident, and was a peripheral figure in these opening exchanges, rarely displaying any level of courage on the ball. He’d prove very little threat in an attacking sense, and seemed out of his depth. Inside of him, in the defensive midfield role, was the perennial Giotis Tsaloukhidis. He had proven himself as this era’s Greek national team football’s greater assets through his physical contributions, and particularly his aerial strength was invaluable to an otherwise fairly small team. He also seemed to like it when the goings got tough, and he would usually patrol the rear of midfield, offering assistance to the centre-backs. One problem, though, could be that he would drop too deep, and so their more attacking central midfielder could be left slightly isolated.
Kofidis was second in rank only to captain Dimitris Saravakos when it came to appearance numbers: The Panathinaikos forward was playing with the country’s crest on his chest for the 51st time here, but he looked vastly uninspired. When on song, the little but technically gifted forward could prove a huge inspiration to his team, but he was wasteful in possession and directed passes straight to opposing players. He’d also been adjudged offside when Savvidis had attempted to play him through the middle, something which the number 7 definitely should’ve been able to avoid. His partner up top was Iraklis man Thanasis Dimopoulos, who had returned to the national team for his second cap in the recent Oslo friendly after an absence of nearly four and a half years. So far, he had cut a relatively anonymous figure, but he seemed more a victim of the team’s shortcomings than his strike partner, as Dimopoulos appeared to be a player more reliant on aid from his team mates than Saravakos did.
Someone who relished the chance to have a go from distance was Poland’s midfield ace Tarasiewicz. He could prove a very useful asset on his day, and it did look like he was beginning to influence procedings to a greater level as the half was approaching the midway point. Twice within a minute and a half did he test Oikonomopoulos from range, and on both occasions the Greece stopper proved equal to Tarasiewicz’ efforts. The first came after a direct free-kick 25-26 yards out, whilst the second was struck in open play, after he had been played in by fellow central midfielder Nawrocki, with the Greeks very lenient in their pressing play. Tarasiewicz’ second attempt had come from a full 30 yards, though Oikonomopoulos had dealt with the low shot comfortably enough. Still, to leave the Swiss based player with plenty of time and space could eventually see you suffer.
The hosts move further ahead in the goal column on 27 minutes after a delightfully executed counter-attack. They win the ball down by their own right hand corner flag, as Agoroyiannis, who, for whatever reason, had come across from his right-sided position, is outmuscled and outwitted by Kaczmarek. He plays his libero Budka with a short pass inside, and in turn the big Legia defender feeds Robert Warzycha along the right. Advancing from deep inside his own half, Warzycha looks up and sees the run of Kosecki ahead of him. Khatziathanasiou can’t keep up with the long-haired forward, and rather than try and follow Kosecki towards the byline, he is tempted to give up space by moving slightly inside, and when gifted such an ocean of space, Kosecki has all the time in the world to put over a cross towards the back post, where Krzysztof Warzycha is on hand to head it back across for Dziekanowski, who arrives to the ball just ahead of Oikonomopoulos. The big striker almost stumbles on the ball, but it bounces up kindly for him, and to make sure, Dziekanowski prods it into the back of the net with his head. The second goal is deserved, as Poland have been much more inspired than their visitors.
While it is a game being played with fine sportsmanship from both sets of players, it was not without incidents. On 19 minutes, there had been a clash of heads between Wdowczyk and Apostolakis inside the Greeks’ half of the pitch from which the Polish captain had come off the worse, needing medical assistance before he was able to resume, and whilst that had been an accident, there was little accidental behind the only yellow card of the match. Apostolakis, who at times could turn a dirty little player, resorting to unnecessary means such as kicking an opponent, did exactly that when he gave possession away to Ziober deep inside his own half. In realizing his error, he made sure to scythe the little wide midfielder down from behind, and his deliberate act of sabotage offered the Greece full-back a highly deserved booking. It was a cynical tackle, and one, alas, which you were not that surprised to see Apostolakis execute. Fortunately, Ziober had not been injured, and after a bit of breather on the ground, he was able to resume play. Tarasiewicz struck the ensuing free-kick into the side-netting from an angle.
Shots and substitution
After three further shots from distance, all by Polish players, the home side are forced into making a change. It is midfield enforcer Nawrocki who has picked up what appears to be a groin strain who must leave the field of play, and into play comes Stal Mielec’ Piotr Czachowski. It is a like for like replacement, with the 22 year old defender/midfielder making his second international appearance. Czachowski had been another new name in Strejlau’s first game in charge. Nawrocki, incidentally, had been the last player to try and score from range, though he had displayed that shooting was hardly his forte, with his attempt from 26-27 yards taking a bounce before safely ending up in Oikonomopoulos’ hands. Prior to that, the Greek ‘keeper had seen a Budka effort wide to his left, while he had pushed yet another Tarasiewicz shot around his right hand post for a Polish left wing corner. Poland’s dominance was strong, and their many efforts from distance probably had something to do with the fact that they had the wind behind them.
Closing in on half-time and…another goal!
The home side find time to add to their lead, and while this is a fine first half display by the hosts, it should be taken into consideration that the Greeks are about to perform yet another act of self-destruction. This is certainly not untypical of their character. It is disappointing to see players at international level who don’t seem to care, but there are a few in this Greek select during the opening 45 minutes here in Warsaw. Krzysztof Warzycha had turned sharply on the edge of the penalty area and drawn another save from Oikonomopoulos on 40 minutes, and less than two minutes later it was time for Jacek Ziober’s first goal for his country. He had played a neat one-two with Dziekanowski, whose return pass was ideal for the onrushing wide-midfielder to accept and fire at goal from close range, although he’d need a second attempt to send it into the back of the net, with Oikonomopoulos saving his original effort. Three first half goals, but surely the visitors could hold few complaints. The new Poland regime must’ve been delighted at what they were seeing.
As we return to the Polish Army Stadium, the second half is already ten minutes old. Obviously, we have few ideas of what has been happening until now, though records from the game inform us that there had been no less than six substitutions during the half-time break.
Poland had made a forced change during the first half, with the injured Nawrocki coming off for Czachowski, and during the interval, they’d also taken off captain Wdowczyk. He had received a blow to the head in a clash with Greece’ Apostolakis, and though he had continued until half-time, it could well be that Strejlau had been adviced by the medical staff that Wdowczyk had best been withdrawn. Replacing the captain for the second half was 22 year old Olimpia Poznań’s Piotr Soczyński. He was a versatile player, capable of operating in defence and midfield, and had only made his debut for the full ‘A’ select earlier in the calendar year, during the tour in Latin America. This was already his eighth cap, so he was clearly an up and coming player, and one which Poland were hoping would play a starring role in the future. Would he prove a direct replacement for Wdowczyk in that left-sided centre-back role?
Who is the new captain for the home side after Wdowczyk’s exit? It is, alas, impossible for us to say. As we return after the break some ten minutes into the second half, we get no explanation to this from the commentator, and with the majority of the Polish players sporting black armbands from kick-off, the relatively low video quality makes it impossible to identify a second half captain.
Greece manager Georgiadis had absolutely no reason to be content with what had happened in the opening 45 minutes, and that third goal just before the break must have felt like another nail in the coffin. Since this was a friendly, there was the ideal opportunity for him to make a statement and let his players know that such a performance was unacceptable. Georgiadis replaced no less than five players, so you could say it was literally a ‘new’ Greece side which came onto the pitch for the start of the second half.
The five players who had been left behind in the dressing room were: Goalkeeper Oikonomopoulos, who had made a few saves and not really been at fault for either goal, even if he perhaps could have saved the second, full-back Khatziathanasiou, defensive midfielder Tsaloukhidis, wide player Kofidis and not least forward and captain Saravakos, whose first half display had been abysmal by his own standards. Coming on for the quintet were Giorgos Plitsis (‘keeper), libero Alexis Alexiou, wide midfielders Nikos Karageorgiou and Spyros Maragkos, as well as forward Vasilis Dimitriadis. Among these, both Alexiou and Karageorgiou were debutants.
Greece look sharper
What does the second period have in store? Another few goals, or will the visitors raise their game now they’ve left behind some of their under-performing players from the first half? Well, from when we make our second half entry, the Polish tempo appears to have dropped somewhat. It could well be that the substitutions have spurred Greece on, but the home side seems clearly less inspired than they had been before the break. They no longer display an intensity about their performance which we had seen earlier, and they come close to letting the visitors in on goal on 58 minutes. New players Dimitriadis and Maragkos combine, and the latter threads Dimitriadis a ball into the area, though the new forward can’t quite get there as Wandzik is quickly off his line to get to the ball just ahead of the 23 year old Aris Thessaloniki man. This was the first time Greece had shown this kind of attacking combination play.
Another evidence for more hunger in the visitors’ play comes on the hour mark, when it is Savvidis, who was one of very few bright points during their first 45 minutes, attempts to play Dimopoulos through on goal, but once again Wandzik comes off his line to save at an opposing striker’s feet. Inbetween those two close calls from the Greeks, Krzysztof Warzycha had only got a faint touch to the ball with his head from a Ziober left wing corner. He had got to it unchallenged, so had he managed to connect cleanly, it could’ve spelt trouble for the visitors as the forward was eight-nine yards out.
Big change in game picture
The quite remarkable turn-around of events in the second half is a major surprise. Poland are clearly sitting deeper, and this could very well have been an orchestrated move by their management team, to see how they would respond in situations of a more defensive nature, something which they did not have the opportunity to practice before the break. However, you can’t quite free yourself from the feeling that it is a plan which has gone wrong; no team wishes to surrender the initiative quite like the Poles have done.
Greece, by the halfway point in the second half, have had more possession than they did throughout the entire first 45 minutes. Not only have they made highly necessary changes in personnel, but they have also switched a few of the remaining players around into other positions, something which has benefitted the collective. They appear to be playing with increased appetite, and they had almost arrived at some opportunities since the half time break. Almost right on the second half halfway point, they create an opening for wily forward Dimopoulos, who has begun to make a nuisance of himself, and with his socks around his ankles clearly is enjoying this a whole lot more now than he was when he was playing second fiddle to Saravakos. It had been Karageorgiou crossing for him in the centre, but ultimately Dimopoulos had not had sufficient belief in himself, and he had scuffed his shot wide from a decent position.
Another run through the Greek line-up
With so many changes having taken place, it is a must to look through the visiting select once again, as there have been such a high number of changes and positional switches.
Between the sticks now is Plitsis, who at 26 has come on for his 15th international. The Iraklis goalkeeper is no rookie to this climate, having made his debut as far back as 1982. However, his second half inclusion appears to have been something premeditated rather than an indication of Oikonomopoulos having performed badly, which he hadn’t. Still, Plitsis’ squad inclusion had come three years since his previous cap. Why had he all of a sudden earned a recall?
The four man defensive line now read, from right to left: Agoroyiannis – Alexiou – Kallitzakis – Apostolakis. The former, wide right midfielder without success in the opening half, had been shifted back into a more defensive position, to see whether he was able to contribute from this role. He had showed absolutely nothing before the break to signal an indication of him being someone for both present and future. 26 year old Olympiakos defender Alexiou had taken up the spare man role at the heart of their defence, and he appeared to be playing with a certain presence, even if his performance perhaps replicated what we’d seen from Kallitzakis as libero in the first half: There was very little ambition to contribute with anything in terms of creativity. Still, you did feel that their central defence was more assured now they had switched Kallitzakis into Mitsibonas’ central defensive position, which probably was a more natural role for him anyway, as he was a fine duel player.
With Georgiadis having taken his captain off during the interval, Greece had needed to find a new player to carry the armband, and the manager had elected full-back Apostolakis. This was the 25 year old Olympiakos defender’s 30th appearance for his country, and the first time which he had been given the responsibility of leading the troops. Apostolakis had had a pretty poor first half performance at right-back, and had now been installed in the left-sided defensive position instead. This would bring him into contact with Kosecki on a number of occasions.
The Greek midfield read, from right to left: Karageorgiou – Mitsibonas – Savvidis – Maragkos. Their number 10, Savvidis, who had been their brighter player in that pitiful first half, was one of only two players being allowed to perform in the same role for the final half, as he continued to direct their play from his advanced central midfield position. He had found exactly that space inside the opposition’s territory which he needed to prove a threat, and unless the Polish started paying severe attention to him, one of his efforts at picking out a forward ahead of him could soon turn into fruition. And rather than having the stationary Tsaloukhidis behind him in the defensive midfield role, this responsibility had now gone to Mitsibonas for the second half, as he had been moved forward from his central defensive position. Rolled down socks and all, it was a challenge which the PAOK Thessaloniki player seemed to relish. He was capable on the ball, and he did appear to bring another level of maturity into their play, something which enabled them to inflict some pressure upon their opponents.
Along the right, rather than having the totally inefficient Aragoyiannis, Greece now had an inspired player in the shape of Mitsibonas’ PAOK team mate Karageorgiou, a 26 year old debutant. He seemed to play with higher levels of energy and enthusiasm than his predecessor for the position, and as a result, the Greek right hand side no longer was ‘dead’ as an attacking capacity. In fact, they would now focus play more towards this side than opposite, where the less meaty Maragkos had entered the field of play for the second half. The Panionios man was making his fourth international appearance, and he was a less direct kind of player than Karageorgiou, rather offering flair and a fine left foot than bundles of energy and decent physique. Altogether, this midfield composition clearly suited the team better than what we’d seen during the first period.
With Saravakos having exited up front, Dimopoulos now had a new attacking partner in the shape of Vasilis Dimitriadis, who was a player of the third Thessaloniki club, Aris. The 23 year old had previously recorded four internationals to his name, and would feature as something of a link between midfield and Dimopoulos. With Saravakos having had such a bleak showing, Dimitriadis’ inclusion was another step up for the visitors, who definitely were looking the more likely to score the next goal. With around 20 minutes left for play, we’ve not had much but half chances.
Poland second half and substitution
There had been a player change at half-time for the hosts as well, with Soczyński coming on for the possibly stricken Wdowczyk, though it had not been a like for like change, with the Olimpia Poznań man stepping into the holding midfield role. In doing so, Soczyński became the third Polish player for this position of the afternoon, following in the wake of starter Nawrocki and first substitute Czachowski. The latter had only slotted into that role for the remainder of the opening half, and now since the start of the second, the moustached Stal player had taken a step back and gone into Wdowczyk’s left-sided defensive role. This did give Poland quite a ‘playing’ look at the back, with both Kaczmarek and now also Czachowski well capable of transporting the ball forward at pace. However, Soczyński did not seem to carry previously seen authority in the defensive midfield position, adding to the impression that Poland were an inferior outfit after the break.
With the second half just beyond its midway stage, Poland supremo Strejlau makes his third change of the game, with Maciej Śliwowski, a team mate of Czachowski’s at Stal in Mielec, coming on for a Ziober who had perhaps begun to tire somewhat. He had been putting in a big shift, had Ziober, and he had capped it off with that late first half goal. Śliwowski, a 22 year old, was a debutant at full international level. He would just replace Ziober directly, and so there were no further positional changes within the Polish ranks. However, one notable observation since the break was that Dziekanowski appeared to be playing deeper, and not in an outright centre-forward role. He would pop up in central midfield from time to time. This chart displays the two teams following the most recent substitution:
Do not get us wrong: Even if Greece are a vastly improved team in this second half, they are no world beaters. Poland’s levels have dropped, and Strejlau should be worried that they can go from one extremity in the first half to another at the bottom end of the scale after the break. Whatever it is they’re trying, it is not coming off for them, as they find no cohesion in midfield. Tarasiewicz, who had been influental in the first 45, and who had had no less than four attempts at goal, is having a stinker, and perhaps is he sometimes even disturbed by the presence in that central area by Dziekanowski. The Switzerland based ace inexplicably gives away possession more than one time.
The introduction of Śliwowski has also failed to raise their game, as the debutant does little to give an impression that he is the solution to any struggles. However, it would be very unfair to single him out, particularly considering it is his very first involvement at this level. Poland’s failure to replicate their first 45 minutes is down to a collective drop in quality, and they are also revealing cracks at the back when Greece threaten to pull a goal back. The visitors’ most recent attempt had been a looping header just wide of the upright from Dimitriadis, who had gone under the radar of the Polish defence as he’d arrived behind the back of Robert Warzycha to connect cleanly for his header. Had it gone inside the post, Wandzik would’ve been beaten.
Through to full time, the game continues in its somewhat erratic yet laboured fashion. The away side are seeing greater possession than the hosts even in the final 15 minutes, and they do come close to taking advantage as well, most notably when Dimitriadis frees Mitsibonas to the right inside the area with a clever little pass. However, rather than taking an extra touch to steady himself, the holding midfielder gets a rush of blood to the head and strikes poorly first time. He does manage to keep his effort along the ground, but it possesses nowhere near sufficient power to trouble Wandzik, who can collect low down. This had happened on 87 minutes, and another couple of minutes later, the same player popped up on the far post to head over from Apostolakis’ deep cross from the left. Again the midfielder had failed to keep his composure when it mattered. Right at the death, Savvidis accepts a header from Kallitzakis, takes a couple of touches in an advanced midfield position, and strikes it sweetly with his left foot, only to see it clear the bar by a couple of feet from 25 yards. It would’ve been pretty spectacular had it gone in.
Poland’s best second half chance
The Polish’ best attack of the second half had come on 36 minutes, when a fine move involving Czachowski and Tarasiewicz had seen the latter tee Kosecki up for a low diagonal drive from inside the area. It crept just beyond the upright from his left boot. There had also been a skied effort from inside the box by Krzysztof Warzycha after Śliwowski’s header down a minute from time. The forward had done well before the break, even assisting Dziekanowski for Poland’s second goal, but he had failed to express himself in the final 45.
The referee, who had a fine game even if it had far from been a difficult one to run the rule over, blew his whistle one final time with precisely one minute added to the original 45, and it was all over with the scoreline of 3-0. Still, some sections of the crowd had let sound their dissatisfaction with how the second half had played out.
Poland appear with hunger and precision during an impressive first half in which they find the back of the net on no less than three occasions, and where their 3-4-3 formation comes to its right. Granted, they are up against a very uninspired Greek team, where some players are almost visibly displaying their lack of enthusiasm. Perhaps is this most noticeable in captain Saravakos, who is far, far from his best edition.
The half-time break sees Greece manager Georgiadis ring the changes, with no less than five susbsitutes appearing for the start of the second half. Combined with a late first half Poland substitution and one occuring during the break, the high number of player changes contributes to the hosts’ downfall, as they totally fail to replicate their impressive opening half. Greece look to midfielder Savvidis for inspiration, and they do manage to keep possession and even threaten to break through in the final period. Ultimately, though, their shortcomings in front of goal sees the game peter out with the first half scoreline: 3-0.
1 Wandzik 7.0
looked alert to what came his way, although he wasn’t all that much troubled. Would’ve not stood a chance had Dimitriadis’ header gone inside the post
2 Kaczmarek 7.2
a stylish performance as the right-sided centre-back where he effectively dealt with opposing players both on the ground and in the air. Also a reliable player in bringing the ball out from the back
3 Nawrocki 7.0
had to come off early with an injury, but until then had played his part in keeping the Polish central midfield together, allowing Tarasiewicz to roam. Good battler
(15 Czachowski 7.0
came in to sure up midfield late in the first half, and slotted in as the left-sided centre-back after the break. Looked composed in possession, but did perhaps not always receive sufficient assistance from players ahead of him when defending)
4 Wdowczyk 6.9
very rarely bothered defensively by unimpressive opposition players. Has his usual, unsuccessful pops from distance. Off at half-time, possibly due to an earlier head clash with Apostolakis
(14 Soczyński 6.7
positioning looked a problem for most of the half, as he failed to pick up Greece’ attacking midfielder. Committed to the cause, but too often found inbetween)
5 Budka 7.1
a fairly comfortable occassion for a sweeper, though he remained focused for the entire 90 minutes, and made sure to put a couple of big blocks in. Strong aerially, but could perhaps have been exposed for pace as he did look a bit sluggish
6 Ziober 7.2
works well both ways, and his goal is warranted for his sheer endeavour. Has his usual odd stumble when taking a man on, but in general this is a very uplifting performance
(13 Śliwowski –
brought on for his debut, but remained fairly anonymous through to full time, a couple of mazy runs on the ball apart)
7 R Warzycha 7.2
a big engine along that right hand side, where he contributed in both directions. Often available, though his crosses weren’t always spot on. Fine job against Maragkos in the second half
8 Tarasiewicz 7.1
saw a fine first half display in the centre of the pitch, when he found the right spaces from which to direct operations. Had four efforts from distance, three which made the ‘keeper work. Dropped in quality after the break, as he found much less space
9 K Warzycha 7.0
assisted for the second goal, and showed some mobility, but would unfortunately not prove a goal threat on this occasion. Still an important team player for his workrate and his ability on the ball
10 Dziekanowski 7.1
displayed some impressive touches, though sat surprisingly deep in the final 45 minutes, which did not appear to suit him nor the team. Tucked home his goal, and was a big presence with his body strength
11 Kosecki 6.8
a relatively direct display in which he enjoyed taking the full-back on, even if he wasn’t always successful. Wandered more after the break, and arrived at Poland’s biggest second half opportunity
1 Oikonomopoulos 6.8
looks relatively comfortable, despite the fact he went on to concede three goals in 45 minutes. Could perhaps have reacted quicker for the second goal, but assured apart from that
(15 Plitsis 6.7
no real save to make after the break, when he was hardly worked at all following the change in game picture)
2 Apostolakis 6.4
Troubled defensively when the Polish arrived 2 v 1 along his side, but did perhaps improve slightly after switching to left-back for the second half, as Poland didn’t attack so much directly against him. At times his control let him down, and was rightfully booked for cynically chopping Ziober down after giving possession away
3 Khatziathanasiou 6.8
some interesting duels with Kosecki, and displays his usual aggression, even if he’s perhaps not all that focus. Far from their worst first half performer, but nevertheless sacrificed during the interval
(17 Alexiou 6.9
looked comfortable enough during a half in which the Polish could not establish prolongued spells of dominance. Strong in the air)
4 Kallitzakis 6.7
unsure as first half libero, but team organization was a mess. Improved at centre-half after the break, though defensively didn’t have all that much to do
5 Mitsibonas 6.7
part of that leak first half defence, and did not thrive ahead of the libero. Left a better second half impression in centre-mid, from where he would even pop up for a couple of late scoring opportunities
6 Tsaloukhidis 6.7
probably also victim to the half-time tactical shake-up, without him being the sole reason for their opening 45 minutes shambles. Will never bring tons of mobility, but his physicality at the rear of midfield is usually valuable. Failed to deny Tarasiewicz space
(18 Karageorgiou 6.8
better than his predecessor along the flank, and combined well when Savvidis approached his territory. Probably enjoyed not being faced directly by a particular opponent)
7 Saravakos 5.9
looks about as uninterested as it gets at this level, and far from displays the kind of body language you would wish from your skipper. Few initiatives off the ball, and misplaces a few passes. Massively disappointing
(16 Dimitriadis 6.8
a step up from the man whom he replaced, mainly with his distribution, as he sat somewhat deep. Also close to scoring with his headed effort)
8 Agoroyiannis 6.3
looked desperately out of his depth along the right hand side of midfield in the first half, where he was hardly seen in possession at all, and probably benefitted from the switch to right-back after the break, even if he didn’t face a big level of challenge along his side
9 Dimopoulos 6.9
was not so easy to spot during that difficult first half, where he did not seem to link up well at all with Saravakos, but arrived at a few attempts in the second half, where he put in a lot of running off the ball
10 Savvidis 7.2
often found space in which to advance inside the opposition’s half, and looked inspired throughout. Attempted through balls and a couple of shots from distance
11 Kofidis 6.2
provides little assistance for his full-back, and likewise has next to no contributions inside the Polish half. Easily played around by the Polish, and for such an experienced international it is an underwhelming performance
(14 Maragkos 6.7
displayed some fine close control, but could rarely use his fine left foot effectively, and was also too little involved)