Wojciech Wojcik (standing, far left) and Danny Szetela (sitting left) with their Cosmos B teammates watching the Poland-Senegal match. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Even if you are a professional soccer player, sometimes you have to put your job in front of your heart.
And sometimes your heart can be broken while rooting for your favorite team.
Before they could root for Poland in its World Cup match against Senegal Tuesday morning, Danny Szetela and Wojciech Wojcik had to train with Cosmos B at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
“I was thinking about it a lot before training and then once training ended,” said Szetela, whose parents come from Poland. “Not so much during training but once training ended I ran inside to watch it.”
They missed the opening half, even though practice ended at 11:30 a.m., about a half hour earlier than usual. Head coach Carlos Mendes said he was starting training earlier due to the heat.
“We all have responsibilities,” said Wojcik, who was born in the Eastern European country. “I would have loved to have seen the first half. But I knew what to expect going into the game. Senegal was going to play the counter and they were going to be tough to break down. They’re an athletic team.”
What the Cosmos B captain and Wojcik witnessed the second half on a TV while the team ate lunch at its training facility was not always appetizing as Poland fell to the African side, 2-1.
The Poles lost on a pair of unusual scores. The first was an own goal by Thiago Cionek’s own goal, in which the defender deflected in a shot from Idrissa Gueye in the 37th minute, which Szetela termed “unlucky.” The second one was a controversial goal by M’Baye Niang as he was allowed onto the field during the run of play after an injury. He intercepted a back pass from midfield, beating goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Jan Bednarek to the ball. Niang then slipped the ball into an empty net on the hour.
“I thought the referee let the player on at a point in which Poland had possession going back towards their own goal, which I think the ref made the wrong call,” Szetela said.
The European side pulled one back by Grzegorz Krychowiak in the 86th minute, but it turned out to be too little and too late.
During the second half, there wasn’t much said among players and there was no teasing of Szetela and Wojcik.
Wojcik wasn’t surprised that Senegal pulled off an upset against a European team on its own continent.
“Look, they’ve done this before at this stage of the World cup when they beat France [in 2002],” he said. “They were definitely capable of doing that and they did it to us today.”
As the players dispersed after lunch, a teammate told Wojcik, “Sorry, better luck next time.”
Wojcik replied that Poland was going to beat Poland in its Group H match Sunday.
“For me, it’s easy to sit back and watch a game and judge because you’re watching it from a view where you can see everything,” he told a reporter later. “When you’re on the field playing, those decisions have to be made in milli-seconds. Sometimes these players make the right decisions and other times they don’t. It’s a team sport and we didn’t get the result we needed today. That’s unfortunate, but we’ll have another opportunity against a good Colombian side.
“If we don’t win that game, there’s no going through. So we have to beat Colombia. It’s something we have to do. They have to win as well. It’s going to be a very, very interesting matchup and one of the biggest stages in World Cup soccer. We want to win, and they want to win and there’s going to be only one winner. It’s going to be interesting and exciting to watch.”
Since Cosmos B don’t have training scheduled for that day — the team hosts the Elm City Express, the 2017 National Premier Soccer League champions at Hofstra Soccer Stadium Saturday night — both players will be able to watch the World Cup encounter with friends and/or family.
“I still have a lot of faith in Poland because they have so much talent,” Szetela said, “but this is the beauty of the sport of soccer. You never know what’s going to happen. Many results this World Cup I could have never guessed but myself and the rest of the Polish fans have a lot of faith that Poland can win their next game vs. Columbia and Japan and move on to the Round of 16.”