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By ESPN Staff

Poland count cost of another early exit

HANOVER, June 21 (Reuters) - Poland left the World Cup on Wednesday and after two poor defeats they do not know when they will be back again at one of football's major tournaments.

Losses to Germany and Ecuador in Group A made it clear how lucky the Poles were in qualifying, playing out of their skins to beat Austria, hardly a major European power, twice.

With a team at the top of their form, they were also able to dispose of Northern Ireland, Wales and Azerbaijan.

But their European Championship qualifying group includes stiffer opposition in the form of Serbia, Belgium and Portugal. They will also be fortunate to get such easy opposition for the World Cup qualifiers next time.

'We have to be honest. This team lacks in almost every area,' Jan Domarski, scorer of the goal at Wembley that began England's eight-year absence from the finals in 1973, told Reuters.

Like most of the team's critics, he says the biggest problem is Poland's lack of drive in games they believe they should win.

'The biggest thing is that their minds are not totally on football and they lack fight,' Domarski said.

'So what if we battled against the Germans. The players showed no hunger against Ecuador, because they were convinced they would win and make the second round.'

Coach Pawel Janas is likely to lose his job in July, under fire for taking an overly defensive approach to the Ecuador game and underestimating the strength of the South Americans, who are playing at the finals for only the second time.

But in truth Janas chiefly fell victim to his failure to motivate a midfield that has never proved competitive against Europe's top tier.

Forwards Ireneusz Jelen, Ebi Smolarek and Maciej Zurawski held the ball up well against Ecuador and Germany but rarely had the option of passing sideways or forward.

'The biggest problem tactically for me is that the midfield is always too far from the forwards. They do not get up in support,' said Smolarek's father Wlodzimierz, scorer of 13 goals for Poland and now a coach with Feyenoord in the Netherlands.

Jelen had only played in friendlies before the World Cup finals and should now start on a regular basis. But there were no similar discoveries in the middle of the park.

The Polish press agree that Janas or his replacement should ditch central midfielders Miroslaw Szymkowiak and arguably Arkadiusz Radomski. It is just not clear who can replace them.

'Of course, there will be changes for the European qualifiers, but they cannot be far-reaching,' said football association chief Michal Listkiewicz.

'Who exactly do we have to replace Szymkowiak, Radomski or even Jacek Krzynowek, who is just out of form? I do not see them. This is the best we have.'