KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - Poland entered the World Cup finals ranked highest of the four teams in Group H at eighth but ended up being the first team out of contention for the knockouts with a lackluster performance in their first two matches.
After two defensive lapses against Senegal led to a 2-1 defeat in their opener, the Poles looked second-best by miles all night against Colombia on Sunday, eventually going down by a 3-0 margin.
Their strong form in the qualifying campaign seemed like a distant past, and talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski summed it up with his nonchalant comments after the defeat to Los Cafeteros at the Kazan Arena.
“Maybe that’s all we could do. Let’s be frank, it’s not like we lost by a whisker. So we fought, we tried to do our best, but at the moment we could not do anything more,” the prolific Bayern Munich striker told Polish TV.
“Many things did not go as they should today, during this World Cup... I was alone, we fought, I fought, I did everything I could, but fighting is not enough to win World Cup matches, you also have to have quality, and we had too little of that.”
Poland led their qualifying group almost from start to finish, finishing with eight wins, one draw and a defeat with Lewandowski leading Europe’s qualifying campaign with 16 of the side’s 28 goals.
Their offensive play on Sunday appeared limited to launching long balls toward Lewandowski, who often had to fall back in the hope of receiving more service.
Colombia did well to shut down the striker with two players always close on his heels, and Poland did not have the quality or the skill to switch their tactics.
“Tonight practically we used all our forces that were available when it comes to our offensive playing,” Poland coach Adam Nawalka told reporters. “We tried to attack but there was no fluid play.
“Unfortunately we were not efficient and effective. The opposing team were better in terms of quality and ball possession.”
Colombia’s opening goal in the 40th minute forced Poland to be more offensive, and it ended up providing more space for the free-flowing Latin Americans. The second and third goals came in the space of five minutes for Colombia.
“We know that we were trying to cover the opposing players but step by step we tried to play even more offensively,” Nawalka said.
“It was clear there was more and more free space for the Colombian team, and they really put it to good use and that’s why they won.”
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Hugh Lawson