Football: Tomaszewski says ‘weak’ England will have last laugh now

WARSAW - The hero of Poland's most famous match against England doesn't expect them to equal his Wembley feats even though Roy Hodgson's side are "weak" compared to the one he stopped from going to a World Cup.

Tuesday's World Cup qualifier will take place almost 40 years to the day since Jan Tomaszewski's brilliant display.

On October 17 1973, Poland goalkeeper Tomaszewski, dubbed "a clown" by celebrated manager Brian Clough, made a string of saves in a 1-1 draw.

The result denied England a place at the 1974 World Cup - the first time they'd failed to qualify for the finals since they started taking part in 1950.

"Back then they (England) were one of the world's best teams, probably even the best," Tomaszewski said in an interview with AFP in Warsaw.

"Now England is weak, weak but they're not falling below a certain level.

They could have qualified already, like the Italians or The Netherlands, but they've drawn too many games."

Forty years ago, a draw signalled the end of an era as manager Alf Ramsey, who'd guided England to their lone World Cup title at Wembley in 1966 and the quarter-finals in Mexico four years later, was sacked as a result.

Roll the clock on to 2013 and England again need to beat Poland at Wembley to be certain of qualifying for a World Cup finals.

But the difference now is that, following Friday's 1-0 defeat by Ukraine in Kharkiv, Poland can no longer qualify while England will go into the match on the back of a morale-boosting 4-1 European zone Group H win over Montenegro at Wembley.

'Something just isn't right with England'

"They (England) are still among the world's best, but for sure now they're not in as good form (as 1973)," said Tomaszewski. "But, objectively speaking, they're the best team in the group.

"Something just isn't right with England these days. All the players are fantastic but during a game - I mean individually these players are nearly the world's best - when they play together something's off with the communication, it's just not there."

Among those Tomaszewski admires is goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has come under fire lately after some poor performances for Manchester City.

"He's really taking a lot of flak, but I feel he's one of the best goalkeepers in the world and if he makes it to Brazil, he'll be the star of the championships."

As for Poland's prospects on Tuesday, a pessimistic Tomaszewski added: "It's hard to imagine Poland winning.

"I'm rooting for our boys to really show their stuff because it might be that the game at Wembley will be their first step on the long march to the European Championships in France in 2016 - the team might just be 'born' in this match, even if we lose."

Back in 1973, the only way England were able to beat Tomaszewski at Wembley was through an Allan Clarke penalty scored after Poland's Jan Domarski had given the visitors the lead.

"It wasn't just about me," Tomaszewski insisted. "The guy who stopped England was made up of 12 parts: coach Kazimierz Gorski and all 11 of us players.

"I made a heck of a lot of mistakes in 1973 but my team-mates knew me so well - I knew them so well, and they saved me when it was critical.

"We played like the Musketeers - 'All for one and one for all!'," added Tomaszewski of a side that would go on to finish an impressive third at a 1974 World Cup won by hosts West Germany.

Tomaszewski, now a 65-year-old opposition conservative member of Poland's parliament, said a lack of consistency in selection was hampering the current side.

"In 1973 we had two world-class players, (Kazimierz) Deyna and (Wlodzimierz) Lubanski and Mr Kazimierz Gorski teamed them up with 14 talented, young players.

"They played together all the time and it was a world-class team.

"Now we have four world-class players: (Robert) Lewandowski, (Jakub) Blaszczykowski, (Lukasz) Piszczek from Borussia Dortmund and (Wojciech) Szczesny or (Artur) Boruc in goal, right?

"And for the rest it's like musical chairs, they change from minute to minute.

"I call it a divine team because God only knows who's going to play and only God knows how they'll do!"

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