Poland’s initial campaign in the VNL took even the most optimistic fans by surprise, as it started the competition in a very surprising 10-0 win streak. However, the team’s performance in the competition’s Final 6 took even the most pessimistic fans by surprise as well, as the Polish squad managed to win only a single lonely set en route to a fifth place finish. Needless to say, as defending World Champions, the fans and the media blamed coach Vital Heynen for the “fiasco,” as they saw the constant line up changes in the team as the biggest source of its misfortunes.
Michal Kubiak, one of the most experienced players in the team, did not appear in the Final Six, getting some time off to focus on his rest and health. Regardless, the player was quick to come on Heynen’s defense:
“I realize that expectations for us are always big. We also want to win, but it can be different. At the VNL, it was supposed to be from the beginning a testing ground, but when we were promoted to the final tournament, victory was expected from us. The media has to decide either/or. We qualified for Final Six, playing with an experimental lineup. The coach announced that he would try all the players, giving chances to the young ones. In the meantime, according to some, we were supposed to win gold. The victories were important, but the goal was different. Most probably forgot about it.
It is not surprising that the reaction from our results in Poland is either black or white. I do not understand all the hustle and bustle after the Final Six. This is a typical approach in our country, and when confronted by it, I don’t even care anymore. Of course, we know that there will always be pressure. I train and play under pressure all my life. I’ve got used to it, I will not run away from it. For me it’s not a novelty, I’ve learned to live with it. I am only annoyed by the inconsistency of assessments and people changing their minds every three minutes.”
Heynen, on the other hand, seems to have taken a novelty approach to handling this criticism:
“Criticism will always appear, but it is not something that guides my life. On the first day of the grouping, I took one of these articles and together with the players I started to analyze it. I told them to read it themselves and let us judge where the author was right and where he was wrong and why. Such a view of our game through the eyes of someone from outside also helps.”
Poland should have no trouble making out of the WCH’s first round after being drawn to Pool D alongside Finland, Iran, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Bulgaria.
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