In short, Poland was humiliated in Maribor (not Ljubljana as mentioned in the previous article) and had no punch, no fighting spirit and no defence good enough to halt Slovenia. By half time, the home team was 2–0 up, thanks to goals scored by Zlatko Dedić (12th minute) and Milivoje Novaković (45th minute). They added a goal in the second half: Valter Birsa scored the all decisive third goal in the 62nd minute. Poland lost by 3-0, despite coming on the pitch in their strongest line-up possible (Marcin Wasilewski excluded).
In general, the performance of the Polish team has gone downhill. In the games prior to Euro 2008, Poland under coach Leo Beenhakker played 28 official matches (including friendlies), of which they won 15 (54 percent), drew eight (29 percent) and lost only five (17 percent). Since the start of Euro 2008, Poland have played 19 games, of which they won only five (26 percent), drew five (26percent) and lost the remainder (48 percent). One could say that the results before Euro 2008 are exactly the opposite of the results since the Euro 2008.
Theoretical chance left
Because Slovakia defeated Northern Ireland, the Slovaks are close to direct qualification. The battle for second place is still open, but Poland is left with a theoretical chance, especially since the Czech Republic overtook the Poles in the league standings after beating San Marino by 7-0. The Czechs are Poland’s next opposing side on 10 October, with the final match to be played on 14 October by Poland at home against Slovakia. The second placed team qualifies for a play-off round against another group’s number two, who then battle it out for four available places in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
1. Slovakia 8- 19
2. Slovenia 8- 14
3. Northern-Ireland 9- 14
4. Czech Republic 8- 12
5. Poland 8- 11
6. San Marino 9- 0
Leo Beenhakker, Dutch head coach of the Poles since 2006, won’t be sitting on the bench any more. In a weird and emotional interview in front of the Dutch cameras of NOS, the Dutchman stated: “Now I know what the ancient Polish Sejm must be like! First and foremost, we haven been blown away by a strong Slovenian side. We already had problems against them at home (1-1) and here they were just two times better than we were. After the final whistle, the Polish cameras dived upon me and while being interviewed I heard from another reporter, who just finished interviewing Polish Football association (PZPN) president Grzegorz Lato, that I’ve just been fired. What a disrespectful way!”
Lato was then ordered to take back his statement by other members of the board of PZPN. “It is not up to the president himself to make such decisions,” a quick press release stated. Beenhakker, however, does not want it anymore. “Unless this whole Polish circus of politics and bureaucracy changes, they will continue with the same problems over and over again. There is nothing wrong with the team and I would like to thank the players. But in away games there are more ‘have beens in tuxedoes’ looking over my shoulder than I have players at my disposal. I too have felt a certain stagnation in performance after Euro 2008. I’m going back on a plane with Ebi Smolarek to Rotterdam and focus on Feyenoord, even though a drunken Grzegorz Lato said to me afterwards that I wasn’t fired and he expects me in Warsaw on Tuesday. I’m sorry, but I feel I’ve done all I can and I think another visit to Warsaw is not going to change the situation Poland is in right now.”