They had not been present during the summer congress of Europe’s finest in West Germany, Poland, as they had only finished fourth in their qualification group, with defeats in both Hungary and in Greece. As they had been paired with the very much up and coming Dutch, who would indeed go all the way in the European Championships, their qualification had possibly not been expected. Their showing during the last World Cup, the one in Mexico ’86, had left a great deal to be desired, even if they did make it to the second phase. Their squad had been ageing, and they had suffered heavy defeats against both England and, to send them out of the tournament, Brazil.
Wojciech Łazarek had been tasked by the Polish FA to start the rebuilding process, but would the 1990 qualifiers come too soon for the Polish? And just how much patience would there be? Perhaps not a great deal. Łazarek will have felt pressure to deliever ahead of the Italia ’90 qualifiers, and for the opening Group 2 match against Albania he would chose to include a lot of experienced players. So where were the next generation that could take Poland to the next level?
At least there were some decent players plying their trade abroad: the tall libero Roman Wójcicki, fine defensive midfielder Waldemar Matysik and ageing forward Włodzimierz Smolarek. Striker Jan Furtok was catching the attention of clubs in the West German Bundesliga, and he would indeed be moving on to Hamburg during the qualification. Yet another forward, Dariusz Dziekanowski, would move from Legia Warszawa to Scottish giants Celtic. Domestic stars were central defender Damian Łukasik (Lech Poznań) and midfielders Jan Urban (Górnik Zabrze) and the blonde Andrzej Rudy (GKS Katowice).
On the topic of Andrzej Rudy: 23 years by the time when he appeared in the playmaker’s position for their opening qualifier at home to Albania, no one would know that this was his final cap for four and a half years. The following month, the Polish national team had gathered for a camp in Italy, where they would be playing a fun-game against a select from the Italian Serie A. During this stay in Milan, Rudy had met up with someone whose aim was to help him flee to the West. He managed to go to West Germany, and he would be staying in the city of Cologne, whose football team he would sign up for, and for whom he would finally make his long awaited debut in October 1989. Alas, despite softer lines all across Eastern Europe following the various countries’ respective revolutions, Rudy failed to reappear for the Polish national team until late in the qualification ahead of USA ’94.
Once again Poland would be looking to their traditionally strong home form to put them into contention for World Cup qualification.
10.07.1988 United States 0-2 Poland
Goals: Kosecki 2
Line-up: Wandzik – Kubicki (R Warzycha 68), Bendkowski, Łukasik, Wdowczyk (Cisek 73) – Prusik (c), Rudy, Tarasiewicz (K Warzycha 43), Urban – Furtok (Ziober 69), Kosecki
15.07.1988 Canada 1-2 Poland
Goals: Rudy, Tarasiewicz
Line-up: Wandzik – Kubicki, Bendkowski, Łukasik (Tarasiewicz h-t), Wdowczyk (Cisek 67) – Prusik (c), Rudy, Urban – Kosecki (R Warzycha 83), Furtok, K Warzycha
24.08.1988 Poland 3-2 Bulgaria
Goals: Ivanov (own goal), Furtok, Rudy
Poland: Wandzik – Wójcicki, Łukasik, Wdowczyk (Cisek 68) – Prusik (c), Rudy, Matysik (Ziober 68), Urban – K Warzycha (Król 82) Furtok, Kosecki (Tarasiewicz h-t).
Poland did well to beat a decent Bulgarian team, and it could from the line-up look like Łazarek had been experimenting with a 3-4-3 formation, where Wójcicki fell into his natural role as sweeper, with Łukasik and Wdowczyk ahead of him, and with Matysik, Prusik, Urban and Rudy in a strong-looking midfield diamond, whilst Furtok, Kosecki and K Warzycha had taken the three strikers’ roles. Goals came from Ivanov (own goal), Furtok and Rudy. Ziober replaced Matysik midway through the second half for his fifth cap, the lowest tally among the Polish players.
Matysik’s first cap for more than a year.
21.09.1988 East Germany 1-2 Poland
Goals: Furtok 2
Poland: Wandzik – R. Warzycha, Bendkowski, Łukasik, Wdowczyk – K Warzycha, Tarasiewicz (Ziober h-t), Rudy, Urban (c) – Furtok, Smolarek.
It took two second half goals by Furtok to win this friendly with neighbours GDR in Cottbus. It was Poland’s fourth straight win, after their Trans-Atlantic July mini-tour had also yielded wins against USA and Canada. This time Łazarek’s formation could have been a 4-4-2, with ŁKS Łódź defender Bendkowski winning his fifth cap to keep Łukasik company in the centre, and with R Warzycha and Wdowczyk as full-backs. K Warzycha and Urban could have taken to the midfield flanks, right and left respectively, whilst Rudy and Tarasiewicz appear to have been playing in the centre. Veteran Smolarek was back in the side to accompany Furtok up front. When Ziober replaced Tarasiewicz at half time, it is likely that Urban came into a more central role, with the long-haired ŁKS Łódź man coming on in a wide capacity.
19.10.1988 Poland 1-0 Albania
Goal: K Warzycha
Line-up (4-4-2): Wandzik – R Warzycha, Wójcicki, Łukasik, Wdowczyk – K Warzycha, Matysik (Ziober h-t), Rudy, Urban (c) – Furtok (Komornicki 73), Smolarek
Despite never firing on all cylindres, Poland deserved to win their opening game, and could have had more goals but for a fine performance by the visiting ‘keeper. Łazarek had perhaps disrupted the balance in the team slightly when taking off defensive midfielder Matysik for winger Ziober at half time, but they still dominated the visitors, and finally got their reward when K Warzycha finished well for his first ever international goal in what was his home ground. This was after Łazarek had re-installed a player in the defensive midfield position: Komornicki had replaced forward Furtok with the score locked at nil apiece.
07.02.1989 Costa Rica 2-4 Poland
Goals: K Warzycha 2, Kosecki, Urban
Line-up: Wandzik – Jegor, Kaczmarek, Łukasik, Wdowczyk (Szuster 31) – Prusik (c), Wijas (Rzepka 62), Tarasiewicz (Soczyński 79), Urban – Kosecki, K Warzycha
The first match of a three-legged Latin America tour saw yet another win for Poland, their sixth in succession. Łazarek had given debut to Górnik Zabrze full-back Jegor, and also to substitutes Szuster (Ruch Chorzów) and Soczyński (ŁKS Łódź). With regular sweeper Wójcicki most likely being unavailable, it had been up to Legia Warszaw defender Kaczmarek to take up this position, in what was his fourth international appearance. Wias of Katowice looks to have held the defensive central midfield position, with Tarasiewicz, Prusik and Urban also in the starting line-up. K Warzycha and Kosecki will have been the two strikers. Warzycha, who had opened his account for Poland in the 1-0 home win against Albania, added a further two to his tally, and there were also goals from Kosecki and Urban.
12.02.1989 Guatemala 0-1 Poland
Goal: K Warzycha
Line-up: Wandzik – Szuster (Fornalak h-t), Kaczmarek, Łukasik, Wdowczyk (Jegor 80) – Prusik (c), Wijas (Soczyński 80), Tarasiewicz (Rzepka h-t), Urban – Kosecki, K Warzycha
For a third successive international K Warzycha registered a goal as Poland grabbed their seventh successive win. Prusik or Wijas at right back here? Wide man Szuster started his first international. He was replaced at half time by Ruch club colleague Fornalak, who made his debut. Wandzik was Łazarek’s man between the sticks for this tour. Most likely a 4-4-2 again, with Kosecki and K Warzycha up top.
14.02.1989 Mexico 3-1 Poland
Line-up: Wandzik – Wijas, Kaczmarek, Łukasik (Fornalak 67), Wdowczyk – Prusik (c), Tarasiewicz (Szuster h-t), Rzepka (Soczyński h-t), Urban – Kosecki, K Warzycha
Playing their third match within the space of a week, Poland finally suffered defeat. They had been 3-0 down when Kosecki pulled a goal back ten minutes from time. 4-4-2 again the most likely formation, yet again with Kosecki and K Warzycha leading the line, and with Górnik Zabrze man Rzepka starting an international for the first time since 1981!
12.04.1989 Poland 2-1 Romania
Goals: Urban, Tarasiewicz
Line-up: Bako – Prusik (c), Szewczyk, Soczyński, Wdowczyk – K Warzycha (Ziober 65), Wijas, Urban, Kosecki (Araszkiewicz h-t) – Dziekanowski (Tarasiewicz h-t), Furtok
Back to winning ways on home soil in Warszaw after goals from Urban and Tarasiewicz. Bako had replaced Wandzik between the posts for his second international, and at sweeper Szewczyk from Śląsk Wrocław won his first cap. Furtok was back to lead the line, and Dziekanowski came on as a second half substitute to win his 50th cap more than ten months after his last appearance. There had also been a start at full-back for Soczyński.
02.05.1989 Norway 0-3 Poland
Goals: Furtok 2, Wdowczyk
Line-up: Bako – Soczyński, Szewczyk, Łukasik, Wdowczyk – K Warzycha, Prusik (c) (Kaczmarek h-t), Tarasiewicz (Ziober 61), Urban – Dziekanowski (Kosecki h-t), Furtok
07.05.1989 Sweden 2-1 Poland
Line-up (4-4-2): Bako – Soczyński, Wójcicki, Łukasik, Wdowczyk (Tarasiewicz 16) – K Warzycha, Matysik, Prusik (c), Urban – Dziekanowski (Kosecki 61), Furtok
03.06.1989 England 3-0 Poland
Line-up (4-4-2): Bako – Prusik (c), Wójcicki, Łukasik, Wdowczyk – K Warzycha, Wijas, Matysik, Urban (Tarasiewicz 71) – Leśniak (Kosecki 61), Furtok
Outplayed in the first half, Poland are still in the game only a goal behind. They could even have scored from a couple of decent opportunities, through Urban and Prusik respectively. As they are more in the game possession wise after the break, they lose a killer second goal when unable to put enough pressure on the hosts, and it is game over.
15.06.1989 Wojciech Łazarek would be relieved of his managerial duties, and in came Legia Warszawa boss Andrzej Strejlau to guide the team through their final three qualification matches.
23.08.1989 Poland 1-1 Soviet Union
Line-up: Bako – R Warzycha, Kaczmarek, Budka, Wdowczyk – Prusik (c) (Czachowski h-t), Nawrocki, Urban (Godlewski 80), Ziober – K Warzycha (Soczyński 25), Kosecki
Strejlau’s first match in charge brought along four players from his Legia Warszaw side into the starting line-up, of which left-sided defender Wdowczyk was the most obvious pick, debutant defender Budka the least so. Wójcicki, who had been sweeper in all of Poland’s three qualifiers to date, would never again feature for the national team. Łukasik had been a regular at centre half. He would not play again during the qualifiers for Italy. The same was the case with experienced midfielder Matysik, who, like Wójcicki, will never again pull on the Poland jersey. This resembles a 3-5-2 from Strejlau, with Kaczmarek at sweeper, and Budka and Wdowczyk as central defenders. Nawrocki will have kept the defensive midfield role, with Urban and Prusik, Strejlau’s first ever international captain, in the more attacking roles, and with R Warzycha and Ziober down the flanks. K Warzycha and Kosecki were up front. Wdowczyk got the Polish goal as a leveller in the second half. Lobanovsky had featured two debutants from start in Fokin and Shmarov, and would later bring on three further first caps.
05.09.1989 Poland 3-0 Greece
Goals: R Warzycha, Dziekanowski, Ziober
Line-up: Wandzik – Budka, Kaczmarek, Wdowczyk (c) (Soczyński h-t) – R Warzycha, Nawrocki (Czachowski 37), Tarasiewicz, Ziober (Śliwowski 70) – K Warzycha, Dziekanowski, Kosecki
First half goals from R Warzycha, Dziekanowski and Ziober made sure of Strejlau’s first win as national team boss. This time around it looks like he might have reverted to 3-4-3, where Dziekanowski played in the centre of attack, flanked by Kosecki and K Warzycha. Nawrocki and Tarasiewicz were at centre midfield, and Kaczmarek appears to be Strejlau’s clear first choice at sweeper.
20.09.1989 Spain 1-0 Poland
Line-up (4-3-3): Bako (Wandzik h-t) – Kubicki, Budka (Soczyński 54), Kruszankin, Wdowczyk (c) – R Warzycha, Kaczmarek, Czachowski – Kosecki (Kubisztal 73), K Warzycha, Ziober
Poland never embarrass themselves against a very strong-looking Spain team, though they fail to ignite going forward, and only create a couple of opportunities to score. At the back, they start off with four players from Strejlau’s former club team (Legia Warszawa), as well as holding midfielder Kaczmarek from the same club. They look relatively solid. Their attacking shortcomings are further exposed when Kaczmarek is moved into the libero role with Budka coming off injured.
11.10.1989 Poland 0-0 England
Line-up (3-4-3): Bako – Czachowski, Kaczmarek, Wdowczyk (c) – R Warzycha, Nawrocki, Tarasiewicz, Ziober – Kosecki, Dziekanowski, K Warzycha (Furtok 58)
Mr Strejlau’s first qualifying match in charge, and they had been hoping to keep their dream of qualification alive. Had it not been for an alert 40 year old Shilton, they would have been in front at half time: The visiting ‘keeper kept the Polish at bay with some fine stops. Poland had a shoot on sight policy, and a few of their efforts were fine ones, though Dziekanowski’s close range header was probably the closest they came. They slowed down after the break, where they could not put the English under the same amount of pressure, and the game petered out in a scoreless draw. Not even theory can help Poland qualify for Italy now.
25.10.1989 Poland 0-2 Sweden
Line-up (3-4-3): Bako – Czachowski, Kaczmarek, Wdowczyk (c) – R Warzycha (Kubicki 68), Nawrocki (Góra 83), Tarasiewicz, Ziober – Kosecki, Dziekanowski, K Warzycha
After a partly impressive performance against England last time out, the Polish were made to look flat by an inspired Sweden, who through their win secured their passage to the World Cup. The Polish should have gone in front through Kosecki within the opening quarter of an hour, but once the visitors had scored a penalty to go ahead some 20 minutes later, the outcome was never really in doubt. Poland had a good few performers who were below par.
15.11.1989 Albania 1-2 Poland
Goals: Tarasiewicz, Ziober
Line-up (3-4-3): Bako – Czachowski, Kaczmarek, Wdowczyk (c) – Kubicki, Szewczyk, Tarasiewicz, R Warzycha – Kosecki, Dziekanowski (K Warzycha 34), Ziober
This is a game where we have precious little to go on, but the Polish would at least secure their first qualification win since the opening day, making it a ‘double’ over the Albanians. Roman Szewczyk had come in for Nawrocki to sure up defensively in midfield, whilst they had generally looked identical to their two recent home qualifiers. Ziober notched a late winner.
Prior to the qualification campaign, Poland must surely have felt that they could cause trouble to any opponent in this group, and certainly at home, where they were traditionally very strong. They would open with an expected yet narrow win at home to Albania, yet without impressing in particular, only to follow this up with away defeats against the group’s two stronger participants Sweden and England. The latter trounced the Polish 3-0, something which ultimately prompted the Polish FA into action, relieving manager Wojciech Łazarek of his duties. They would turn to Andrzej Strejlau as his replacement, and there would indeed be a notable change in use of personnel for their remaining three matches.
Poland had been in 4-4-2 under Łazarek, whilst Strejlau came in and switched to 3-4-3 for their remaining matches. They would give the English a big scare in Chorzów, yet they would ultimately just have a point to show for a fine performance, having encountered a very spirited English goalkeeper in Peter Shilton. That was that. Poland’s chance of qualifying was gone, and they would give an indifferent performance in their subsequent home game against Sweden, to whom they’d lose 2-0, also in Chorzów. Winning their final match in Albania could not save the reputation of the Polish from this qualification. Five points from six matches was probably just reward, though, as this was far from Poland’s finest vintage.
There had been some erratic goalkeeping performances from Jarosław Bako, yet both Łazarek and Strejlau would persevere with him. Defensively, the resolute Dariusz Wdowczyk, team captain under Strejlau, had looked sound, and he was indeed their only player to have started all six qualifiers. Few players had stood out in midfield and attack, though Robert Warzycha had been performing reasonably from his right-sided position, whether that be at full-back or as a wide midfielder. At the other end of the scale, a player like striker Jan Furtok, who had sealed a move to West German Bundesliga greats Hamburg during the qualification, had disappointed across his four performances.
Only five players had started four or more qualifiers, with no less than 27 players in action altogether. There had been a lack of consistency in team selection, and Strejlau had had other player preferences to his predecessor. Having a player like midfield playmaker Andrzej Rudy unavailable due to him defecting, had also not helped their plight.
Final position: 3 (out of 4)
Total record: 6 2 1 3 4-8 5
Home record: 3 1 1 1 1-2 3
Away record: 3 1 0 2 3-6 2
Number of players used: 27
Number of players including unused substitutes: 32
Ever-presents (540 mins): 0
Leading goalscorer: Ryszard Tarasiewicz (2)
Yellow/red cards: 4/0
– game by game
|Player||Alb (h)||Swe (a)||Eng (a)||Eng (h)||Swe (h)||Alb (a)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average ratings||Number of rated games|
02.02.1990 Iran 0-2 Poland
Goals: Ziober 2 (1 pen.)
Line-up: Wandzik (Bako h-t) – Kubicki, Szewczyk, Czachowski (Soczyński 67), Góra (Fedoruk h-t) – R Warzycha (Godlewski 80), Nawrocki, Kaczmarek (c) – Kosecki, Śliwowski (Nowak 80), Ziober
04.02.1990 Iran 0-1 Poland
Line-up: Bako (Wandzik 47) – Duchowski (Kubicki 63), Szewczyk (c), Łukasik, Fedoruk (Czachowski 78) – Godlewski (R Warzycha 62), Soczyński, Nawrocki (Kaczmarek 81) – Kosecki, Nowak, Ziober (Śliwowski 81)
11.02.1990 Kuwait 1-1 Poland
Line-up: Wandzik (Bako h-t) – Kubicki, Kaczmarek (c), Łukasik, Soczyński – R Warzycha, Nawrocki, Czachowski – Kosecki, Śliwowski, Ziober
28.03.1990 Poland 0-0 Yugoslavia
Line-up: Wandzik (Bako h-t) – Szewczyk (Pisz 77), Kaczmarek (c), Wdowczyk – K Warzycha (R Warzycha 83), Urban, Tarasiewicz, Czachowski – Kosecki, Dziekanowski, Ziober
04.05.1990 Colombia 2-1 Poland (in Chicago, USA)
Line-up: Wandzik – R Warzycha (Kubicki h-t), Szewczyk, Czachowski (Łukasik 70), Góra – Pisz, Nawrocki, Kaczmarek (c) (Soczyński 84) – Kosecki, Nowak (Śliwowski h-t), Ziober
06.05.1990 Costa Rica 0-2 Poland (in Chicago, USA)
Goals: Pisz, Nowak
Line-up: Bako – Kubicki, Kaczmarek (c) (R Warzycha 60), Łukasik (Czachowski h-t), Góra – Pisz, Nawrocki (Soczyński h-t), Szewczyk – Kosecki, Moskal (Nowak 60), Ziober
09.05.1990 United States 3-1 Poland
Line-up: Wandzik – Kubicki, Kaczmarek (c), Łukasik, Góra (R Warzycha 68) – Pisz, Szewczyk (Nawrocki 73), Czachowski, Soczyński – Kosecki, Ziober
19.05.1990 Scotland 1-1 Poland
Goal: Gillespie (own goal)
Line-up: Bako – Kubicki, Kaczmarek (c), Łukasik (Soczyński h-t), Wdowczyk – Prusik, Nawrocki (Pisz 70), Czachowski – Kosecki, Dziekanowski, Ziober
21.05.1990 Poland 4-0 United Arab Emirates (in Marseille, France)
Goals: Dziekanowski, R Warzycha 2, Kosecki
Line-up: Wandzik – Soczyński, Kaczmarek (c), Czachowski, Góra (Kubicki 66) – Prusik, Pisz (Nawrocki 65), R Warzycha – Kosecki, Dziekanowski, Ziober
06.06.1990 Belgium 1-1 Poland
Line-up: Wandzik (Bako 54) – Kubicki, Kaczmarek (c), Czachowski (Soczyński 77), Wdowczyk – R Warzycha, Prusik, Tarasiewicz – Kosecki, Dziekanowski (Łukasik 62), Ziober