It's my way or highway for Smuda

It was only a 1-1 draw in their second Euro 2012 match against Russia, but in one fell swoop Polish coach Franciszek Smuda silenced his critics.

The solid defence and counter-attacking approach with which the hosts came back in the second half of clash was straight out of the textbook from Poland's golden years in the 1970s and 80s.

But it owed everything to the coach's decision to sacrifice winger Maciej Rybus in favour of Dariusz Dudka in a midfield that broke up Russian attacks time and again. For the first time since 1986, most were quick to say, Poland still have a chance of advancing to the next stage at a finals going into the third group game."Very clearly the best match so far under Smuda, maybe the best match by the Polish national team in years," leading football columnist Robert Blonski said. "At last we get a third game that means something."

It was all a sharp contrast to the reaction to the opening 1-1 draw with Greece which left most Polish commentators laying into Smuda for not making more changes as his side flagged in the second half. Smuda's reaction, as so often with a coach who prides himself on sticking to what he believes, was unyielding.

"I have my principles, they always turn out to be the right ones and I always come out smelling of roses," he said. "Why should I do what someone else suggests. I have to do what I want to do." As interesting, though, was Smuda's refusal to sign up to the press optimism on Tuesday. "We have played a lot of good games. Someone said to me that the best was (a 2-2 draw last year) against the Germans. I don't know about that.”  An eccentric disciplinarian, Smuda has always divided opinion in Poland. But on a number of counts he is the country's most successful coach in international competition since a national team came third in the 1982 World Cup.

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