by Ryan Hubbard in Warsaw
If anything is going to surpass Poland’s heroic draw at Wembley in 1973, last night’s 2-0 victory over World Champions Germany may well be the game that does it.
In a thrilling Warsaw encounter, Poland picked up their first ever victory over their great rivals in 19 attempts, with a performance that owed more to heart than tactics or skill.
After their 7-0 drubbing of minnows Gibraltar, Adam Nawałka’s side would need to be at a whole different level if they wished to think about even just competing with Germany. The Germans meanwhile were missing a few key names through injury, but were widely expected to have enough strength in their squad to dispatch of a side some 68 places below them in the world rankings.
While the sides went into the break without notching a mark on the scoreboard, the fast pace of the tie ensured that the fifteen minutes were required to catch breath.
German midfielder Karim Bellarabi was active in the Poland half, but on the occasions he did manage to hit the target, Arsenal stopper Wojciech Szczęsny was more than a match.
At the other end, Poland’s aim was clearly to try to catch the World Champions on the break, and on a number of occasions were close to doing so, however a lack of composure in the final third ensured the Germans were able to soak up the pressure.
While the visitors were dominating the possession statistics, the encounter was by no means one-sided.
And with the pace showing no signs of letting-up, the Poles decided to take the German script, and rip it to shreds. Unable to deal properly with a ball upfield, the attempted German clearance eventually found its way towards Piszczek. The Dortmund right-back took one look, and provided a sublime cross onto the head of Arkadiusz Milik. By the time he had directed the ball goalwards, Neuer was stranded, punching thin air. The resulting roar from inside the Stadion Narodowy could probably have been hear all the way in Berlin.
While lesser teams would have dropped their heads, the setback merely spurred on the Germans. Wave after wave of attacks were fired at the Polish goal, but reminiscent of Jan Tomaszewski’s heroic performance against England in 1973, Szczęsny was equal to everything.
But still the Poles dug in. And arguably their performance was even more heroic than at Wembley. Tackle after tackle, block after block. Led by the formidable Kamil Glik, they kept out everything that was thrown at them, And with time running out for Germany to equalise, the unthinkable happened – Poland doubled their lead.
The usually reliable German back line were caught out by a quick throw in. Robert Lewandowski worked into the box, and laid the ball to substitute Sebastian Mila, who could hardly believe he’d had so much time and space to slot neatly into the corner of the net.
While Adam Nawałka will undoubtedly try to keep his side grounded ahead of Tuesday’s important encounter with Scotland, Warsaw will party long into the night.
Poland – Germany 2:0 (0:0)
Milik 50′, Mila 88′.
Wojciech Szczęsny – Łukasz Piszczek, Kamil Glik, Łukasz Szukała, Jakub Wawrzyniak (Artur Jędrzejczyk 84′) – Kamil Grosicki (Waldermar Sobota 71′), Grzegorz Krychowiak, Tomasz Jodłowiec, Maciej Rybus – Arkadiusz Milik (Sebastian Mila 77′), Robert Lewandowski (c).
Manuel Neuer (c) – Antonio Rudiger (Max Kruse 83′), Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Eric Durm – Christoph Kramer (Julian Draxler 71′), Toni Kroos – Karim Bellarabi, Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle (Lukas Podolski 77′) – Thomas Muller.
Szukała 19′, Lewandowski 55′, Piszczek 90+3′ – Boateng 24′, Bellarabi 85′.