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UEFA European Championship debutants in 2008 and now co-hosts four years later, Poland are seeking to continue their rise this summer.
Yet if Franciszek Smuda realised a "dream" when he was appointed Poland coach in October 2009, it was far from an ideal situation. The national team had just finished second from bottom in qualifying Group 3 for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and were not to play another competitive game until summer 2012. Fast-forward 18 months and they have lost just two of their last 11 friendlies, a run that has included creditable draws with Germany and Portugal and a win against Argentina.
"We are experiencing a bit of a football crisis in Poland, so to speak, in terms of individual talents and great footballers," said Smuda, 63. "It is not as it was in the 1970s, 80s or 90s.
"We've created a young team, with an average age between 23 and 24 years old. However, we have found a team that plays to 100% of its capabilities. First it was necessary to find the first XI, and then 25, 26 players.
"I think we made a good decision to act as if we were playing competitively, for points. Progress has been made, particularly in terms of tactics. We don't concede as many goals as we did when I started. We have made massive progress."
Smuda's sentiments are echoed by one of Poland's strikers, Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski. "[Smuda] built a team from scratch, and he needed some time before it began to look like it should. No doubt there was pressure at times, but we handled it and I think we are going in the right direction."
For our full interview with Smuda and Lewandowski, view the video above.
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