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European Championship

  • June 16, 2012
  • • 2:45 PM
  • • Stadion Miejski, Wrocław
  • Referee: C. Thomson
  • • Attendance: 41480
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Czech Republic 1-0 Poland: Jiracek sends co-hosts crashing out

The Wolfsburg man provided a rare moment of class in a scrappy, hard-fought game, putting his side into the quarterfinals as Group A winners

Petr Jiracek broke Polish hearts in Wroclaw, netting the only goal of a tense Group A encounter to secure a 1-0 win and last-eight berth for Czech Republic.

The Wolfsburg midfielder was clinical in converting Milan Baros' pass 72 minutes into the game after Poland had been caught on the break and left wide open at the back. The Czechs held on to record all three points, and qualify along with Greece for the next stage.

With both sides needing a win to guarantee their place in the quarterfinals, the game started at a frantic pace with plenty of goalmouth action. Poland was the first team to go close, when Dariusz Dudka's improvized overhead kick flew into the side netting with the home crowd ready to celebrate the opener.

The Czechs also went close through Vaclav Pilar in the opening stages, when the midfielder fluffed a first-time effort having been set up brilliantly by Theodor Gebre Selassie. It was the hosts, however, who dominated proceedings in the first half. Ludovic Obraniak was at the heart of the attack, and his delicate ball almost released Jakub Blaszczykowski on the left hand side but Petr Cech reacted well to close the play down.

It was all Poland at that point, with the Czech side struggling to string two passes together in the face of fierce pressing. An off-balance Robert Lewandowski should at least have hit the target with a shot that veered wide in a dangerous position, while Boenisch forced another save from Cech with a decent long-range effort and Marcin Wasilewski directed a tame header into the Chelsea man's arms.

The Czechs' best chance of the first arguably fell to Milan Baros. The ex-Liverpool striker timed his run perfectly to spring the offside trap, but hesitated and could not control a decent lofted pass from deep as the danger passed.

A Greece goal against Russia in first-half injury time left Group A on a knife-edge, with both Czech Republic and Poland facing elimination if the scores stayed the same at the final whistle. Michal Bilek's men probed early after the restart, but despite some decent possession around the opposition area could not find a way through the determined hosts' defence.

David Limbersky had a half chance to open the scoring as he powered into the box, but his shot could only find the side-netting once more as the game remained in an uneasy deadlock. The reticence of the Polish team to push forward, meanwhile, was baffling, as only a win would put the home side into the next round no matter how events in the other game finished. The home fans looked to Kamil Grosicki to make the difference, the Sivasspor winger entering just under 15 minutes into the second half in place of Eugen Polanski to add a new attacking dimension to the Polish team.

The change did not translate into extra potency in the final third, however, and numerous fouls from the hosts ruined their rhythm and handed their rivals the initiative. The Czechs had several chances from free kicks in dangerous areas, but failed to take advantage and net the goal that would take them above Greece and into the next round. One of those dead-balls forced a reaction save from Tyton, but the keeper was attentive and punched clear under heavy pressure.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, it was the Czech Republic which took the advantage. A slick counter left Poland exposed at the back, and Baros slipped to Jiracek who did well to turn onto his right foot and coolly hit past Tyton.

The goal was a mortal blow for Franciszek Smuda's men, who looked unable to recompose themselves and fight for a now-unlikely victory. Baros momentarily thought he had sewn up the three points when he rounded Tyton, but the play was called back for a marginal offside and the Czechs stayed one goal up. The Polish fans sang their heart out right to the end but, despite a near-miss for Wasilewski right at the death, their efforts were in vain as the hosts bade farewell to the competition.

The central European nation therefore finishes top of Group A with six points, two clear of Greece which goes through after defeating Russia 1-0. Poland, meanwhile lies bottom of the pile and crashes out on home soil, having picked up just two points and failing to win in its fleeting Euro 2012 campaign.

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