WARSAW, POLAND - Poland’s Euro 2012 ended in a nightmare Saturday.
Poland went into Saturday’s game against the Czech Republic having to win to move on.
With the pressure squarely on them, the Poles couldn’t respond. They were defeated 1-0 by the Czechs. Coupled with Greece’s win over Russia, Group A finished on a shocking note seeing both Greece and the Czech Republic going through.
It was the worse possible finish for a team that had hopes of at least making it to the knockout stage as hosts of the tournament.
Now UEFA will see how much interest local fans retain as the tournament continues. That is always a concern when the host team bows out.
The loss not only cost the Poles a spot in the second round, it cost Poland’s coach Francisek Smuda his job.
“My contract expires after EURO 2012 and I had an agreement with Polish Football Federation president Grzegorz Lato that if we didn't qualify from the group then it wouldn't be extended,” he said.
It’s a harsh judgment on a man who didn’t have a lot of tools to work with.
The Poles have been building their team for two-and-a-half years looking toward Euro.
Although Poland had good stretches in their games, they had trouble scoring goals and sustaining their momentum over 90 minutes.
Poland’s game was played in Wroclaw but even in Warsaw where Greece and Russia went at it, most people where focused on the Poland game.
When it was over there was no trouble on the streets. There were just sad fans moving about.
“At half-time, we left the dressing room saying we wanted to attack. On the pitch, however, we did something different to what had been said,” Smuda said.
The country had been tense in the three days prior to the match. But there was an air of confidence because the Czech’s play was inconsistent. They didn’t look great earlier in the group games. But unlike the Poles, the Czech’s managed to score key goals when they were needed.
“The team is confident, we have faith in ourselves,” said Czech coach Michal Bilek. “We had some difficult situations, but managed to play our way out of them as a team. We knew that if we lost, we would go home. We're happy that we're not.”
As for Smuda, he knows how the country and Polish fans feel.
“We have to swallow this bitter pill today,” he said. “I think probably we were too confident about our chances of beating the Czechs. They played excellent football and scored a goal. We had some chances before the break and didn't take advantage. That's why we lost.”