Whereas Legia Warsaw’s 0-1 UEFA Europa League defeat away to highly-rated PSV Eindhoven may not be fatal for their chances of progress, Wisla’s 1-3 humbling at home by Odense, arguably the weakest side in that group, will make their task of qualifying further, a very difficult one.European matches earlier in the season point to the fact that both Polish clubs can perform a lot better than they did last Thursday.
Until that fateful night in Cyprus when Wisla just seemed to fall apart, the White Star’s progress through the UEFA Champions League qualifiers had been exemplary, culminating with a fine 1-0 win against APOEL in the first leg. The ‘Cypriots’, who are actually mostly made up of Brazilians and Portuguese, have just confirmed that they are not a bad side by beating former Europa League winners Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 in their first Champions League Group phase match.
But following that defeat in Nicosia, Wisla again collapsed for no apparent reason, at home to lowly Lechia Gdansk. Then again for no apparent reason, they bounced back to take three points away at high-flyers Lech Poznan. Going into the match against Odense the Krakowianie seemed to have overcome their problems, only to see a repeated collapse, shades of Nicosia.
Legia seem to be following a similar pattern, of good European performances such as their 3-2 away win at Spartak Moscow, followed by disasters against lowly Ekstraklasa opposition. In preparation for their trip to Holland, they lost at home to new boys Podbeskidzie Bielsko Biala who were until then, sitting down in the relegation zone.
Inconsistency in football is fatal. A famous English football coach once said that you cannot turn good performances on whenever you feel like it. Success is dependent on consistency as much as skill and the person who has to take responsibility for it is the coach. His job is not just to train the squad and select his teams, but to motivate them. And punish them when they fail.
If Manchester United or Chelsea lost at home to lowly teams in the Premier League, Ferguson and Ancelotti would be kicking ass. Those players who hadn’t pulled their weight would be out of the team and their feet wouldn’t even touch the ground, regardless of who they were. United players refer to their manager’s verbal barrages when his voice is said to get hot with anger as “having to face the hair-dryer”.
Maybe comparing Wisla and Legia to the English giants is a bit unrealistic, but neighbors Ukraine show that if the best clubs can be consistent week in week out, they will repeat this in Europe. The Ukrainian league is not filled with Shakhtars and Dynamos, it also has its Podbeskidzies and Belchatows. But the big boys there are expected to play as hard against Chernomorets or Obolon as they are against more glamorous European opposition.
After Europe the Ekstraklasa is a pretty low-key event and this is where coaches like Maaskant and Skorza have to motivate their players. Because when sides like Legia, Wisla and Lech Poznan find themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline against teams that are struggling - it must affect their self-confidence. And you cannot go into matches at the highest European level with self-doubts, not knowing what sort of a performance is going to come out.