Group A
Czech Republic 1-0 Poland

By Alex Byrom
Deputy Football Editor from Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Petr Jiracek struck the decisive goal to win a narrow game for the Czech Republic to top group A and send co-hosts Poland crashing out of Euro 2012. 

The Wolfsburg man netted after great work by Milan Baros, stroking the ball into the far corner meaning the Czechs go through despite losing their opening match 4-1 to Russia, as the Russian's lost 1-0 to Greece to also crash out. It isn't surprising the Czech's went through, banishing the nightmare of 4 years' ago when they conceded 3 goals in the last 15 minutes to lose 3-2 to Turkey and miss out on the Quarter-Finals.

Czech Republic made one change to the side that beat Greece 2-1 in the last round of matches. They were rocked, although unsurprised, by the omission of captain Tomas Rosicky who missed out through injury. Cech took over the captaincy. 

Poland meanwhile, kept the same team that came back to draw 1-1 with Russia last time out, so goalkeeper Szczesney will have been disappointed not to come back into the team following his dismissal against Greece in the opening game. 


Petr Cech conceded 5 goals from 6 on target in the tournament coming into this game.

Poland - who have never won a European Championship's match - began like they did against Greece: fast, and quickly - searching for an early goal to settle the nerves. They could have led inside 70 seconds when captain Jakub Blaszczykowski's found a dangerous free kick which fell to Dudka who attempted the spectacular, and wasn't far off target; it hit the side-netting. 

Czech Republic should have taken the lead on 5 minutes, but Pilar fluffed his chance. It was excellent work by Gebre Salassie down the right, but Pilar completely missed the ball. 

Poland kept harrassing the Czech midfield, this forced Hubschman to gift Blaszczykowski possession, he fed Lewandowski, but the Borussia Dortmund striker could only fire wide. Credit should go to Selassie who got back and just put him off. 

Blaszczykowski's in swinging free kicks were proving to be a handful - another on 13 minutes was headed away by Kadlec only as far as Murawski who shot wide, but the Czechs were living dangerously. 

Eugen Polanski then had a effort from a decent position in the area, again after good work by talismen Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski but the shot went wide. 

Poland kept coming forward, but knew they had to take a chance soon. Obrinak centred for right back Boenisch to fire towards goal but too close to Cech. But from the corner, the ball eventually fell to Wasileewki but Cech was there again to make the save. 

Despite Czechs few chances they were still attempting to get forward, making it a entertaining, dynamic, open game, played at a fast pace, from one end to the other.

Towards the end of the half, Czech Republic had some chances, as they got themselves a foothold in the game, and fought back. First, Plasil took aim and it was deflected, though the keeper held on. It came after a neat, patient build-up and proved that the Czechs could break through at any moment.

5 minutes before half time, Pilar again was at the heart of the attack for the Czech Republic - down the left, weaved his way through - keeping his balance - and getting a second chance at a shot which the keeper Tyton fumbled but gathered before Baros could pounce. 

Both sides were dismayed at half time to know that bottom side Greece had taken the lead against leaders Russia. That changed things completely. The top 3 would now all be on 4 points, with Czech Republic finishing second ahead of Greece by virtue of head-to-head.

Czech Republic changed their approach in the second period: More attacking, whilst Poland went backwards; they couldn't get out of their own half at times. Left back Limbersky ventured forward and ended with him firing wide of Tyton's goal. 

The Czechs had the clearest chance of the match on 64 minutes: A free kick was swung in by Plasil and it reached central defender Sivok who powered in a header that hit the keeper at point blank range - he knew nothing about it, and Poland got away with it. 

It was now the Poles making the mistakes and on the break, Baros and Jiracek combined, and the former Liverpool and Portmouth man - but his low shot was comfortable enough for Tyton. 


Czech Republic's first shot at goal tonight came in the 29th minute - the longest a side has had to wait in tournament history. 

But the co-hosts' resistance was finally broken 4 minutes later: Again Poland lost the ball cheaply in midfield, leaving the defence exposed to a counter-attack. Baros fed Jiracek, he cut across his man before passing the ball across the keeper and into the opposite corner, for his second goal of the tournament. Poland threw on their two remaining subs but they made no difference; the Czech back line was a tough nut to crack. 

The Poles' best hope was set pieces, but either the delivery was poor or they didn't quite get the rub of the green with balls not falling for them. On one occsaion it did, Lewandowski, who had a quiet second half mustered in a shot which was unluckily straight at Cech. 

In stoppage time, Czech Republic were moments away from the last eight, and group winners. With Greece hanging onto their 1-0 lead, one mistake, one chance, one moment was all it would take for the final twist, and throw the group on its head again. This moment of drama arrived in the dying seconds of injury time. After a free kick was cleared away, a ball back in fell to Blaszczykowski the captain. Could he be the hero? His shot beat Cech and was heading for the goal, and as the Czechs held their breath, defender Kadlec ran in and scrambled the ball away to make sure the defence remained unbreached, as the Czechs comfirmed their place as group winners, and Poland finishing bottom in the final match of the tournament in Wroclaw's stadium. 

ANALYSIS:  Czech Republic 1-0 Poland
Alex Byrom - Deputy Football Editor reporting from Wroclaw

"Absolutely incredible! Who expected that! I didn't. I thought the Czech's would get through, maybe scraping a draw. But they weathered the storm in the first half, defended well and held firm, knowing a draw was good enough for them. Poland didn't take their chances and the Czechs - who were showed more conviction in the second half and got the goal, and Poland's long wait for a Euro victory continues. Well done the Czechs who have been brillaitn since their opening game debacle."

Saturday 16th June                 UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                   Group A                 Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

Czech Republic 1-0 Poland                                     KO 7:45pm                 Live on BBC1/HD1               (HT 0-0)    

Jiracek 72

Czech Republic:


1. Petr Cech (C)-  6/10  His best game of the tournament, which shows what a disappointmnet it has been for him. Marshalled his defence well. Still looked shaky with crosses into the box, although when he came it was very effective.    

2. Theodor Gabre Salassie-  7.5/10  Dynamite down the right. Not a foot wrong in defence and was a menace going forward. BAgs of energy, spirit and stamina. Excellent.   

3. Michal Kadlec-  8.5/10  Giant in defence. Headed away everything in the box and held the defence together. Superb headed clearence in dying seconds appitimised his performance.  

6. Tomas Sivok-  8/10  Similar to his defence partner. Monster at the back and brushed off Lewandowski, dealt with easily in the second half.  

8. David Limbersky-  7.5/10  Never let the defence down. Although he didn't attack as often as Salassie, his contribution in defence cannot be ignored.  

18. Daniel Kolar-  6.5/10  Energetic without being flashy. Supported attacks well.  

17. Tomas Hubschman-  8/10  Began sloppily by giving the ball away in dangerous areas. But he improved rapidly and was a key source of attacks and passes in the middle of the park.  

13. Jarsolav Plasil-  8/10  An superb performance. As a winger what you want is for him to run down the wing, beat his man, and get a cross into the box. He did that all evening and many good things came through him.    

14. Vaclav Pilar-  9/10 Outstanding. Absolutely. Ran with the ball, terrorised the defence, got balls in the box, always had an end product. Linked up with other players, especilally Baros and Jiracek. Never afraid to get stuck in and some of the defensive work he did was astonishing.  

19. Petr Jiracek- 8.5/10  Worked hard, and probably had the hardest job by linking defence with attack. Combuned with Baros and he set the platform for attacks with passing and tempo. Scored the winner.   

15. Milan Baros- 7.5/10  Livelier performance. Did a lot more, a lot less selfish and worked harder; he knew his team needed him to. Held the ball up well and combined with Jiracek for the goal.  


Substitutes bench:-  
16. Lastuvka (GK), 23. Drobny (GK), 4. Sucky, 5. Hubnik, 12. Rajtoral, 9. Rezek, 11. Petrzela, 18. Kolar, 22. Darida, 7. Necid, 20. Pekhart, 21. Lafata. 


Subs used:     

Rajtoral (for Jiracek- 83 mins)-  1.5/10  I.

Rezek (for Pilar 87 mins)-  1/10  Really not involved. Spent most of his time in defence.

Pekhart (for Baros 90 mins)-  0.2/10  Really not involved. Only on the oitch 30 seconds and still picked up a booking. 


Booked:         Plasil (87),  Pekhart (90+3)




1 Przemyslaw Tyton-  6/10  Not bad. Some good saves, and some good takes. Could do nothing with the goal. 

20 Lukasz Piszczek-  6/10  A typical Polish performance: great in one half, lacklustre in the next. Didn't defend as much as expected, and was often caught napping. Got forward well though. 

13 Marcin Wasilewski-  6.5/10  A decent performance. Dealt with Baros pretty well. Left exposed for goal, as the Czechs broke. 

15 Damien Perquis-  6.5/10  Managed his positon well, and was a threat from set plays. 

2 Sebastian Boenisch-  6/10  Outnumbered most of the time in defence as the Czech counter-attacked. Had a shot in the first half that Cech parried away. 

8 Dariusz Dudka-  6.5/10  Got stuck in well. Defended okay at times, although was bypassed on the break. A threat of set plays. 

11 Rafal Murawski-  5/10  Forgot he was playing. Very disappointing performance. Poland would have expected better. 

16 Jakub Blaszczykowski (C)-  7.5/10  A constant threat. The Dortmund winger delivered some undefendable balls in, at times and was a thorn in Czech's side. They couldn't handle him. Nearly made himself a national hero late on. 

10 Ludovic Obraniak-  5/10  Hard to find a positive really. Virtually anonymous, hardly had a kick. Not surprising that he was withdrawn. 

7 Eugen Polanski-  6.5/10  Odd ball. Helped out the defence when he could and attacked well, but in the second half got crowded out. 

9 Robert Lewandowski-  7.5/10  Brilliant in the first half, you could see why Manchester United are interested: held the ball up, brought players into play. Missed a difficult chance. Second half he really struggled as the Czechs defended. 


Substitutes bench:-  
12 Sandomierski (GK), 22 Tyton (GK), 3 Wojtkowiak, 4 Kaminski, 14 Wawrzyniak, 5 Dudka, 6 Matuschyk, 18 Mierzejewski, 19 Wolski, 21 Grosicki, 17 Sobiech, 23 Brozek.


Subs used:     

Grosicki (for Polanski-  56 mins)-  3.5/10  Crosses into the box offered some threat, but not enough service. 

Brozek (for Obriniak-  73 mins)-  3.5/10  Thrown on in desperation and made a few crunching tackles. Tried to get the ball in the box. 

Mierzejewski (for Murawski-  73 mins)-  3.5/10  Thrown on in desperation and made a few passes. Didn't know his position, and stuck in a defensive position. 


Booked:         Limbersky (12), Muraski (22), Polanski (47), Wasilewski (61), Blaszczykowski (87), Perquis (90)

Sent-off:         None

My Man of the Match:    Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Ludovic Obrinak (Poland)- Rating 5/10

Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)- 6/10
Attendance: 44,416

Match Facts:

Czech Republic- 55%         Poland- 45%

Shots at goal: Czech Republic- 12         Poland- 15

Shots on target: Czech Republic- 8         Poland- 9

Shots off target: Czech Republic- 4         Poland- 6

Corners: Czech Republic- 6         Poland- 6

Fouls: Czech Republic- 21         Poland- 21

Offsides: Czech Republic- 3         Poland- 2

Assists: Czech Republic- Baros         Poland- None


Czech Republic coach Mikel Bilek:  "It's difficult to say [when Rosicky is back] he's irreplaceable. He tried [the injury] before the match and couldn't start but Daniel Kolar played a great match. We started improving at the end of the first half, but during half time I told the players to be patient and be careful at the back; we were patient and we were able to counter attack because they opened our defence."  

Poland head coach Franciszek Smuda:  "This is the end of the road. My contract runs out at the end of Euro 2012 - we did what we could. It is the end of a great adventure. I don't have to [resign], my contract runs out at the end of this tournament, so I see no reason to quit. The contract is ending  because I had come to terms with the FA, I know now what will happen."


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