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Poland haunted by early exits at past two World Cups after dropping opener at Euro 2008

Poland haunted by early exits at past two World Cups after dropping opener at Euro 2008

Poland lost its opening two group matches at the last two World Cups and earned itself an early ticket home each time.
Haunted by those quick exits after dropping its opener to Germany at the European Championship, the Poles now face a critical match against Austria on Thursday in Vienna.
"There are some fears (of a repeat), and they aren't just among fans and the press, but among us players too," said defender Michal Zewlakow, who played for Poland's 2002 and 2006 World Cup teams.
"We are people too, and we're fully aware of the position we're in. On the other hand, I think in such a situation you show your character and the face for the team. You don't do that when everything is going perfectly, but when you have to throw someone on your back and march uphill, that's when you show your heart and true character."
Still, the 2-0 loss to Germany on Sunday, while not surprising, gave Poland fans a sinking sense of deja vu.
At the 2002 World Cup, South Korea beat Poland 2-0 in its first match, then Portugal steamrolled the Poles 4-0 in the following game.
Four years later, Poland lost 2-0 to Ecuador in its opener, then went down 1-0 in a tough loss to Germany on an injury-time goal.
Poland's players insist they have a different team with a stronger character, and that this time around the results will be different too.
Coach Leo Beenhakker, the veteran coach who has brought a sense of calm and self-confidence to the team since being hired after the 2006 World Cup, agrees.
"In a mental way, they are much stronger than two years ago when we started this job," he said. "I'm sure they will be ready Thursday."
But Poland's dismal record in recent international competitions has led its fans to joke that the national team always plays three matches at a tournament: an opener, a second must-win match, and a meaningless face-saving third match.
The black humor has irked some players, and they are keen to bury it by beating Austria.
"We imagined the first match a bit differently," defender Marcin Wasilewski said. "Now, once again, people will say that the first match ended as it always does, the second match is for everything, and the third match is for nothing but honor.
"We want to change this."
In a bit of good fortune, Poland is not up against a football power like Portugal or Germany in its second game at Euro 2008, but instead an Austrian side widely considered the weakest team at the tournament.
"Thursday's match is a match to stay alive, but it's not against an opponent out of our league," Zewlakow said. "We can view that as a positive omen."


Updated : 2021-04-18 08:58 GMT+08:00