The soap opera that had been Paulo Sousa’s managerial reign as Poland’s national head coach has come to an end.
Following his departure to Rio de Janeiro, where he now oversees top-flight club Flamengo, the Portuguese manager has been rather outspoken about his acrimonious split with the Polish national team, claiming that the country’s fans and their disdain for him was his primary reason for leaving.
Evidence of said disdain was prevalent in former Polish basketball star Marcin Gortat’s response to Sousa’s perceived abandonment of Polish football, in which he said he hoped Sousa would step on a brick of Lego, lose his first five matches at Flamengo and be immediately dismissed.
A PhD in communication studies could be written about how Sousa’s image had been shaped in Poland; the initial appearance of an incredible specialist and Champions League winner who admired the former Polish pope, all the way to the distribution of recordings of Sousa shouting at his players after the disastrous match with Slovakia during Euro 2020, to finally the circulation of his tactical analysis following the match with England intended to showcase the Portuguese’s coaching prowess.
If anyone actually checked the effectiveness of these PR stunts, I’d love to hear from them.
It is true that the mood of the fans, as so often happens, waxed and waned, but it is also clear that Sousa antagonized them with a poor start, namely the barely-saved tie with Hungary and an underwhelming performance against Andorra.
You don’t need any surveys to gauge the national mood following Sousa’s decision to run away from Poland. It is actually rather amusing to read articles by serious journalists who suddenly discovered that they had been dealing with a fraud. I’m to understand that they had previously been unaware that despite winning the Champions League as a player and a coach, Sousa never achieved anything concrete with any team nor stuck around in any one job for too long.
And so, a new year and a new coach, although it is not yet known who that might be.
With three months until the 2022 World Cup qualifier playoffs, there remains a significant amount of time to prepare the team, but it is still unclear as to how long it might take to appoint a new coach, and who knows whether that person will be able to hit the ground running.
It is always comforting, however, that although Poland has essentially been operating in a 10-1 formation for many years now, if that one player continues to shoot like a machine, the Polish team will always be in the game.