Poland advances to first Euro C'ship

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/p/polandsoccer_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Poland advanced to its first European Championship on Saturday, beating Belgium 2-0 on two goals by Euzebiusz Smolarek.

Updated: November 19, 2007 11:05 IST
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Chorzow, Poland:

Poland advanced to its first European Championship on Saturday, beating Belgium 2-0 on two goals by Euzebiusz Smolarek.

Smolarek, who has five goals in Poland's last two qualifiers, beat Belgium goalkeeper Stijn Stijnen to a lazy back-pass from defender Jan Vertonghen and knocked the ball into an open net in the 45th minute.

Smolarek scored his second goal in the 50th on a rebound after Stijnen failed to hold a hard left-footed shot by Jack Krzynowek.

Poland, which has twice finished third at the World Cup but never played in a European Championship, clinched a spot in next year's tournament in Austria and Switzerland with the win.

"We've entered history," Smolarek said. "We knew we had to win this match, and we did. We're very happy."

Poland coach Leo Beenhakker hugged Smolarek as he came off the field after being substituted out in the 85th minute.

Beenhakker was brought in as Poland's first foreign coach in July last year to rebuild after the country's lusterless showing at the World Cup in Germany and lead it to its first European Championship.

"I'm happy that we qualified. I'm not very happy with the match," Beenhakker said. "It was a very difficult match, but I'm happy for everybody that we qualified and that's the most important thing."

Belgium played Poland even for the first half, but seemed to tire as the match wore on.

The visitors had already been eliminated from the tournament, and coach Rene Vandereycken continued his experiments with a younger lineup, looking ahead to 2010 World Cup qualifying.

But Vandereycken's young squad failed to create many solid scoring opportunities against a veteran Poland defense.

Belgium's best chance came in the 34th minute, when a left-footed drive by Vertonghen forced a diving save from Poland goalkeeper Artur Boruc.



Poland: Artur Boruc, Marcin Wasilewski, Michal Zewlakow, Jacek Bak, Grzegorz Bronowicki, Wojciech Lobodzinski (Jakub Blaszczykowski, 46), Mariusz Lewandowski, Radoslaw Sobolewski, Jacek Krzynowek, Euzebiusz Smolarek (Kamil Kosowski, 85), Maciej Zurawski (Rafal Murawski, 82).

Belgium: Stijn Stijnen, Guillaume Guillet, Vincent Kompany, Daniel Van Buyten, Jan Vertonghen, Steven Defour (Luigi Pieroni, 61), Marouane Fellaini, Faris Haroun (Karel Geraerts, 84), Bart Goor, Mousa Dembele, Kevin Mirallas (Stein Huysegems, 77).

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