Poland reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over Switzerland in St Etienne Saturday, after their opponents rescued a 1-1 draw with a wonder-goal by Xherdan Shaqiri.
The Swiss were heading out to Jakub Blaszczykowski's first half opener with just eight minutes remaining when Shaqiri, who was named man of the match, equalized with a magnificent scissor-kick from the edge of the box.
With no decisive goal coming in extra-time, it fell to spot-kicks to settle the tie. Switzerland's Granit Xhaka missed the only penalty, sending a woeful effort wide, and Grzegorz Krychowiak smashed home the winner.
Poland now move to Marseille on Thursday where they meet the winner of the last 16 tie between Croatia and Portugal.
"We need to appreciate it and look with optimism to the next match," Poland coach Adam Nawalka said. "We're prepared for this match mentally and emotionally, we're ready for it.
"As we prepared for this match, we tried to improve penalties. We knew who'd be the five players selected but had to confirm with them after the extra-time."
Nawalka made four changes to his Poland eleven from the last group game against Ukraine including Kamil Grosicki replacing the suspended Bartosz Kapustka on the left wing.
And Grosicki proved his worth with a long run to set up the opening goal, though he was the beneficiary of some luck as Valon Behrami should have cleared after a clumsy touch only to give the ball straight back.
The winger needed no second invitation to cross and Arkadiusz Milik cleverly allowed the ball to run on to Blaszczykowski, who finished calmly underneath keeper Yann Sommer from 10 yards.
The goal was well-deserved for Poland who should have been in front after just 60 seconds when Robert Lewandowski pressured Sommer after a slack back-pass from Johan Djourou only for Milik to send the loose ball high over the bar.
Lewandowksi hasn't found the net so far in France and despite maintaining his work-rate, his confidence seemed low - on two occasions he hesitated when quicker passes would have provided team-mates with good chances.
"Robert Lewandowski is doing phenomenal work for this team, he's an incredibly important player for this side," Nawalka said in defence of his star.
Switzerland were not without attacking intent but had no edge with which to threaten Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski, who retained his place in goals as Wojciech Szczesny continues to battle a thigh problem.
Blerim Dzemaili had hit the side-netting and Fabian Schaer headed a corner straight at Fabianski with the game still goalless while straight after the break Shaqiri surged into the box only to fail with his cross.
There was a brief spell when tempers flared as Schaer and Artur Jedrzejczyk both picked up deserved bookings for thumping challenges but the match soon settled again.
Switzerland continued to press and Fabianski flew across his goal to keep out a free kick from Ricardo Rodriguez which was flying into the top corner.
Moments later Seferovic curled onto the bar after Poland failed to clear a free kick but the equalizer was only delayed.
A cross was cleared to the edge of the box and there appeared little danger until Shaqiri somehow contorted his body to shoot beyond the diving Fabianski and in off the post.
"I'm no longer interested in the man of the match award," Shaqiri said. "We've gone out of the European Championships, I'm very disappointed.
"It was a great goal but it didn't prove much use."
With no winner in 90 minutes, the game headed into extra-time and Fabianski denied substitute Eren Derdiyok with a point-blank save on his header from a brilliant chip by Shaqiri.
"The players gave everything, they really showed they can produce a lot on the pitch," said Switerland coach Vladimir Petkovic. "We weren't clinical enough and paid for that a little bit.
"With the lottery, the roulette if you will, of a penalty shoot-out, if you miss one it can be crucial."
In the shoot-out, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Shaqiri, Schaer and Rodriguez all found the net for Switzerland but Xhaka sent his effort well wide of target.
Lewandowski, Milik, Kamil Glik and Blaszczykowski all held their nerve for Poland, giving Krychowiak the chance to win the game. He accepted gratefully, lashing an unstoppable kick past Sommer, to spark wild Polish celebrations in front of the Swiss fans, much to the annoyance of their players.
"It was not a provocation, the players just ran to the goalkeeper who was there," a spokesman for the Polish association said.
Sunday, June 26, 2016 - 10:44
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Saturday, June 11, 2016 - 18:09