Football

Poland team rally around Kuba

Poland team rally around Blaszczykowski, 
whose penalty kick is saved

QUARTER-FINAL

POLAND 1

(Robert Lewandowski 2)

PORTUGAL 1

(Renato Sanches 33)

● 1-1 after extra time. 
Portugal win 5-3 on penalties.

Teammates rushed to rally round Polish midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski after a crucial penalty miss handed Portugal victory in their Euro 2016 quarter-final yesterday morning (Singapore time).

"We lost as a team, and not just one player," said striker Robert Lewandowski, who gave Poland a second-minute lead with his first goal of the tournament.

With Cristiano Ronaldo again subdued, his 18-year-old compatriot Renato Sanches took centre stage and hit Portugal's leveller on 33 minutes.

With no more goals, and Ronaldo missing chances, the match was pushed to penalty kicks, where heartbreak is guaranteed.

Blaszczykowski, popularly known as "Kuba", was Poland's hero in their last-16 clash with Switzerland.

HERO

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who spent last season at Fiorentina on loan, hit Poland's opener, then booking their first quarter-final spot at a major Finals, when he converted from the spot after Granit Xhaka missed his effort at the penalty kicks.

The result meant Poland preserved their record of never having lost in 18 games when Blaszczykowski, 30, has scored.

In the latest penalty kick, Blaszczykowski's run was ended by Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

When Ricardo Quaresma stepped up to score on the next kick, Portugal went through 5-3 on penalties.

"It doesn't matter that he (Blaszczykowski) missed his kick, he's still a great player and a big friend," said defender Kamil Glik, who is moving from Serie A's Torino to French side Monaco.

"He'd saved us a lot of times in this tournament by scoring in other games. That's what we told him."

Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who left his place to Lukasz Fabianski because of injury, suggested nerves may have got to Blaszczykowski.

But, while admitting their disappointment, he believes Poland's march to the last eight for the first time augurs well for the future.

He said Poland had studied Portugal's penalty-taking. "But you never know, under pressure people can change where they go (shoot) and, unfortunately for us, they took their penalties really well today."

Szczesny added: "We've met expectations... we were one step away from being among the top four in Europe, so it's disappointing on one hand, but it's also a good reason for us to be proud of ourselves as well.

"We've had a fantastic journey, it's disappointing but we've done ourselves proud.

"We've done our fans proud and it's a good start to build on for this team."

Even Polish tennis player, Agnieszka Radwanska, chimed in.

STILL OUR HERO

The women's singles third seed at Wimbledon tweeted after the match: "And special thanks to Kuba Blaszcykowski who is still our hero and played a great tournament."

Earlier, Blaszczykowski had wished her good luck for her Wimbledon campaign in a uefa.com video.

Former Polish great and now the president of the Polish Football Federation, Zbigniew Boniek, offered his support to the team for reaching the last eight.

Glik added: "It's not the biggest disappointment of my career. That's football, sometimes you lose on penalty kicks.

"We have to stay positive. It was a balanced match in which we had chances just as they did. Portugal are a strong side." - AFP.


BY THE NUMBERS

0 Poland are out of Euro 2016 despite having never trailed in the tournament. They had beaten Northern Ireland and Ukraine both 1-0 and drawn 0-0 with Germany in the group stage, before drawing 1-1 with Switzerland in the Round of 16. Portugal, meanwhile, are in the semis despite drawing all their games.

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