Dudek: "In Poland we have two Lewandowskis"
The former Real Madrid keeper speaks to AS ahead of the Euro 2020 match between Spain and Poland: "I was surprised Luis Enrique didn't take Sergio Ramos."
Jerzy Dudek is a Polish legend, earning 60 caps for his country, and achieved great success at club level as well, notably in Liverpool’s Champions League final comeback against AC Milan in 2005. Dudek also represented Real Madrid, as a luxury back-up to Iker Casillas, where he played until his retirement in 2011. The keeper speaks to AS ahead of Spain and Poland’s Euro 2020 clash in Sevilla on 19 June.
- First, tell us what your life is like now. Are you still linked to football?
Now I am not involved in any football team. I’m helping a little bit my brother who is a coach at Sandecja Nowy Sacz which is first division and of course I’m working for the television as a pundit. We still have a football school in Krakow. And that’s it. Enjoying my life, you know. Still in shape to play football, in the legends team of course. Because we are playing legends as well for Liverpool. Then we wait until the pandemic is over and we can meet again and play some good, legendary games for Liverpool and maybe for Real Madrid as well.
- How do you see Poland’s chances at the Euros?
How do I see Poland in this championship? After the first game against Slovakia, we were hoping to beat them, that was the best scenario for us, to play let’s say the weakest team in this group as a first, we didn’t want to play Spain or Sweden, but after the first game, unfortunately we lost it and the whole of Poland is sad with this game. We have a new coach and of course he didn’t have much time to get the best out of the team, but this performance was not the best clearly. The leadership from our team was really poor. From the keeper to the central midfielders up to Lewandowski. I think that was an average performance and we couldn’t break a very good Slovakian team. By good I mean as a team performance. They were really strong as a team and had good individual performances and good individual players, like Skriniar, who is playing for Inter Milan and I think Martin Dúbravka who was playing, as the keeper. And now we are waiting for Spain on Saturday.
- Do you think Lewandowski is the best in the world right now? Poland must take advantage of his level ...
I think what we see in Poland is that we have two Lewandowskis. One Lewandowksi who is playing for Bayern Munich, and he’s playing absolutely amazing football, scoring goals and breaking records, and another Lewandowski who is playing for the national team and especially in big tournaments like the Euros and the World Cup, and statistically this is not always good for Lewy, before the tournament starts he had amazing stats, he was breaking records and scoring goals for Bayern Munich - and also for the national team - but this is always bad news for us, because always when he had a good season in the club, he struggles to perform for the national team in the big tournaments, and it looks like it’s going to be the same this year and it will be very disappointing for him because we are waiting for two strong opponents in Spain and Sweden and it looks like we cannot really go through which is always the object for us, to go further from the group and to use the best striker in the world as you say. In my opinion he’s really the best number 9 now but with his club because with the national team he’s a different player and he knows that, he wanted to change it, he was talking a lot to the colleagues, the team players, but it looks like its very difficult to have the same Lewandowski from Bayern Munich in the national team, but without a doubt he’s a really good striker.
- You are a legend in Poland. Has the level of the Polish team risen a lot compared to when you were playing?
In my time we started in 2002, that was the first time we went to the World Cup after 16 years in Japan and Korea. Everything was new for us, let’s say. We were young players without experience in the big tournaments. We made some mistakes in the pre-season to the World Cup. But we had a really good team spirit, we had a really good group of players. Almost all the players played in Europe and to compare our team to this team of Lewandowski is very easy. We were not the weakest team and the only thing we didn’t have is Robert Lewandowski. We had Olisadebe, he was a really good striker, he was helping us a lot, scoring goals, but we were missing someone like Lewandowski, this is the only difference between our teams, that Lewy makes a difference. But still, if you are comparing, we had only one good tournament, which was France 2016, European Championships, and we took advantage of not the strongest group and then we took advantage of the next stages, we beat Switzerland on penalties, and it was a really good tournament for us. We lost against Portugal, who went on to become Champions, and we lost against them on penalties as well, and we could have taken a little bit more from that championship but we were all happy and it was the best tournament in the new era, let’s say, but after that and before this there was always something missing. I think the physical preparation was missing, sometimes the atmosphere, because when you are not performing, not winning, the atmosphere is not the best and we were hoping that this year we were going to have a great championship but it looks like it’s going to be really difficult again to get out of this group, but we’ll see - the third place in the group still has a chance to go through but we have to get a good result against Spain and definitely against Sweden.
- Do you give Poland many options against Spain?
When you watch Spain v Sweden, you see some possibilities, you know you are going to have one or two chances and you have to take those chances if you want to get a good result, but first of all you need to play really, really compactly and really well defensively, like Sweden did, very strong performance in defence, then maybe you can look for a some counterattacks and set pieces because this is the only way you can break Spain, and if you want to score the goals you need to have the ball, but it’s very, very difficult to have the ball, you need to prepare to have a really painful night, you have to run without the ball all the time and wait for… Not make any mistakes and wait for the one opportunity. Sweden were very close. It seemed like you play almost 90 minutes on one goal against Sweden, but one counterattack, two counterattacks, can change the game and you can make classic goals… of course everyone in Poland is wishing for this classic match, you can defend 90 minutes and make one good action and score the goal, but that would be very, very tough and I don’t think Poland has many options against Spain, but it all depends on the day and how the players feel, but it looks like the Spanish have much more to offer on the pitch than Poland.
- What do you think of the absence of Sergio Ramos? Did you think it was the right decision?
"Sergio had a tough season, but he was mentally ready for these championships"
There was a big surprise when I heard for the first time that Sergio wouldn’t be in the squad for the national team. He was captain for a long time. I know that Luis Enrique was talking to him, explaining everything and it looks like that between him and Sergio everything is ok. He had a very tough season, but he was mentally ready for these championships. You know you don’t play many games for Real Madrid, for your club, but at the back of your head you still have this big championship, you have the national team and I think Sergio was working very hard to be in the squad and I think at the end of the day he was very disappointed. I was really surprised that he didn’t take him, because even if you don’t play him, he’s a very good player, a fantastic motivator, he knows what to do on the pitch and off it, and in some way, you could miss him during this competition.
- You saw the beginning of the great Spain side of 2008-12. Do think they are at a much lower level than then?
I had a great opportunity in 2007 I came to Real Madrid with Iker, with Rulo, with Sergio, with Guti. And I saw the great transformation of the national team: 2008, 2010, 2012, they became World Champions and twice European Champions, and it was absolutely great to see how the players grew up mentally and physically, and it was a very good mix of players, they played in Spanish competition and I think there was good experience from the players who played for foreign teams, like Liverpool, Manchester, some Italian teams, you can see different characteristics, different approaches to the game than you see in Spain and I think this mix gave you the best of, historically, the best of the mixed talent of the players and to be strong and perform well and to be the winning team, you need to have a great coach and I think both coaches did fantastic work. They had a good relationship with the players and of course they had the talent and it was nice to see the players like Iker being the best in the world. I think this Spanish team is lower, I don’t want to say the worst Spanish team in last 12 years, because this team might have their best time in front for them. They’re a young team, they need to have time, of course they are under pressure, because Spain is always competitive, and the supporters always see Spain winning the World Cup and European Championship, and this team needs to have time and of course after that you need to deliver results to be compared to the team from 2008, 2010 and 2012. But it’s still a strong team, the football you prefer is still there, you’re operating with the ball all the time, you’re passing on the field, you’re killing your opponents with this passing, you’re creating a lot of chances, but you’re not taking those chances which I think is a big problem for Spain that you’re creating a lot of chances but you can’t take those chances, you need to be much more clever, maybe much more sensible in front of goal, because it’s sometimes difficult to create these chance and it’s frustrating not to take these chances.
- Ferran, Olmo ... Do you like Spain’s new generation?
You have a lot of young players, you mention Olmo and Ferran, but you also have a lot of players representing foreign clubs, which is unusual, you used to have more Spanish players in Spanish competition rather than at foreign clubs and now it’s the other way around, but Spain is always… it used to be very strong at youth football, and after that it was very difficult to switch to the big teams, to the football we play, but this is always nice to see, football players with technical ability because it’s all about the level of the football. Young players they need to have time of course, and Moreno for example is such a fantastic player and you have a good goalkeeper. We’re always talking about De Gea but Simón is also a really talented player, the only thing you need is to be patient and score more goals and get results of course. I was always a big fan of Spanish football and I hope you don’t perform really well on Saturday because against Poland I’ll always support Poland.
- Finally ... A prediction for the match
Forecast for the match… This is always tough. The heart says one thing, the head says another thing. I wish to have same result as Sweden, you play against Sweden, I think a draw, 1-1, if we perform well. If we play really compact in defence, we need a really strong team performance, we can get this result but it will be very, very tough. The heart is saying we can still take a point from the game, but the head is saying we don’t have much to offer, let’s say, that there is only one winner, which is Spain. Everyone is saying that but maybe the heart is right this time.
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