WROCLAW, Poland (AP) — Petr Jiracek scored a second-half winner to give the Czech Republic a 1-0 victory over Poland on Saturday and a place in the quarterfinals of the European Championship.
Poland, the tournament co-host, was knocked out with its defeat in the team’s final Group A game. The Czechs won the group and will play the runners-up in Group B.
Pushing forward in the 72nd minute, Jiracek collected a pass from Milan Baros in the box, cut right past Poland’s Marcin Wasilewski and slotted the ball inside the far post.
Poland, which had to win to advance, immediately brought on two attacking players in the last 30 minutes to push for a goal, but struggled to create any serious threats.
After the final whistle, the Czech players swarmed each other on the pitch. The Poles fell to the ground, covering their faces.
The Czechs pulled off the win despite playing without their captain and playmaker Tomas Rosicky, who was sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury.
Without his creative skills the Czechs were listless in the first half, struggling to put together any fluid passing and reduced to knocking long balls forward. But as the Poles pushed forward in the second half in search of a goal to put them through to the quarterfinals, more space began to open up in midfield.
That space gave the Czechs the opportunity to strike on the counter, and the punishment came with Jiracek’s second goal of the tournament. He also opened the scoring in a 2-1 victory over Greece.
Poland responded well, though, and the final chances were all for the home team.
A cross from the right was deflected to the far post, where Marcin Wasilewski met the ball with a header that just cleared the crossbar. Minutes later, Jakub Blaszczykowski’s angled effort was cleared off the line by Michal Kadlec as the Czechs sealed their place in the last eight.