Franciszek Smuda: For me there are no friendly games. All internationals, even ones not in a competition, are very important because you play for prestige. We knew that to prepare well for Euro 2012 we should think in this way.
What is the most important progress the team has made since 2009?
We do not give away so many goals, the players have a better appreciation of tactical principles and we play our football in a faster, one-touch way to show our fans an attractive style. Even if we draw or lose – like the 2-1 defeat by Australia – we create a lot of scoring opportunities. The team are playing to the best of their ability and that is very important to me.
Which players have made the most progress individually?
It is better to say that the team as a whole have made progress. Two-and-a-half years ago I had only one player, Dariusz Dudka, who had experience of big tournaments. He is still in my team but it’s a totally new team compared to 2009. I see a real progress and I am optimistic.
You have a young side with an average age of 23 to 24…
That’s because I wanted to have them ready for the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign. I do not want to create the same situation that I had when I took over. Whoever is national coach after Euro 2012 should have a team that is ready to play and that should make his task a bit easier.
Why did you say that your team are better appreciated abroad than in Poland?
Because it is true. In Poland we come in for strong criticism. When we drew 2-2 with Germany last year, the Germans praised us more than the Poles.
What has been your most difficult moment since taking over? Maybe those few months without victory in successive games?
It was obvious to me that we could not win all the games during the team-building process. On the other hand, we don’t have the kind of players we had during the 1970s or 1980s.
You have also said there is no real individuality in this generation…
For me individuality is a player like Messi. We don’t have such players so we should do our best to be strong as a team.
Are injuries a big concern?
We have never played with the optimal starting XI. Last year against Mexico
I could not use 11 first-choice players. You must realise that we are not strong enough to face opponents when we have five or six starters missing.
Did you suggest to a few players that they should change clubs during the winter transfer window in order to play regular first-team football before the Euro finals?
Yes. Ludovic Obraniak moved to Bordeaux and started to play at once. But he is an excellent player. Unfortunately another one, Pawel Brozek, has had no luck and he is not even a substitute after being loaned from Trabzonspor to Celtic.
And because of that you have no back-up for Robert Lewandowski among the forwards…
That is true as forwards like Brozek or Ireneusz Jelen from Lille are out of form. Artur Sobiech from Hanover is a different matter. He is a very talented young player and has shown his potential, scoring a few goals when given a chance for 15 or 30 minutes. I am sure he will make progress.
The Polish media have often said you should recall Fiorentina goalkeeper Artur Boruc. Are you likely to change your mind?
Boruc has had his time. He made too many mistakes in his Poland career, on and off the field. We have so many talented goalkeepers. Now is time for the younger generation.
Some say there are too many “foreigners” in the side, those who only play for Poland because they have no chance to be called up by France or Germany. What do you think of such opinion?
They are Poles. Some were born here, then, for different reasons, went abroad. Why should they not play for Poland? We have still so many malcontents in the country. I’ll give you an example. One journalist told me to move as fast as possible for Sebastian Boenisch because he could play for Germany. When I did, the same journalist asked me: “Why did you pick him?” There is too much envy in the country. I would like there to be more satisfaction.
What do you think of Poland’s group?
It is a treacherous group. Russia and Greece are favourites, while the Czech Republic have built a very interesting team. We have to be totally concentrated in each game and do our best to reach the knockout stage, which is our aim.
Interview by Dariusz Kurowski