Poland beat Ukraine to advance for first time
By Mitch Phillips
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters)- - Poland can prepare for a European Championship last-16 meeting with Switzerland after Jakub Blaszczykowski's crisp, second-half goal beat already-eliminated Ukraine 1-0 on Tuesday to send them into the knockout stage for the first time.
Poland had started strongly but appeared to be settling for the draw that would also have guaranteed their progress until Blaszczykowski struck nine minutes after joining the fray as a halftime substitute.
The result left them on seven points, second in Group C on goal difference to Germany, who beat Northern Ireland 1-0.
Poland's huge following in the Stade Velodrome celebrated the win and the progress it brought with extra gusto, having had to endure the humiliation of four years ago when they finished bottom of their group when co-hosting the tournament.
"It is a very good result overall to get seven points without conceding a goal," said coach Adam Nawalka.
"We started fairly well but lost control of the midfield. The team played very well defensively and we had to show character."
Poland could and should have been out of sight in the first five minutes as Arkadiusz Milik shot straight at goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov when through and Robert Lewandowski, the leading scorer from any country in the qualifying competition but without a goal now in six internationals, side-footed wide with the goal gaping.
Ukraine looked shell-shocked but, unlike in their previous two 2-0 defeats by Germany and Northern Ireland, they settled down and should have scored themselves when Andriy Yarmolenko blazed wide. Continued...