Poland beat Switzerland 5-4 in a shootout to reach their first European Championship quarter-final as a riveting clash ended 1-1 after extra time on Saturday following a brilliant late equaliser by Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri.
Grezgorz Krychowiak drilled in the winning spot-kick after Granit Xhaka had missed Switzerland’s second penalty to send the Polish fans at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium into raptures.
Jakub Blaszczykowski had given Poland a 39th-minute lead before Shaqiri levelled with a spectacular bicycle kick in the 82nd to send the contest into a dramatic climax.
Poland will play Portugal in the quarterfinals on Thursday in Marseille, its best performance in a major competition since the 1982 World Cup in Spain when it made the semifinals.
Krychowiak’s winning penalty capped an impressive display by Poland’s players during the shootout.
The only player to miss was Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka, who fired his kick wide of the left post.
Read also: Portugal knock Croatia out of Euro 2016
“Preparing for this match, we tried to improve our penalties, and we knew they’d be taken in the best possible way,” Poland coach Adam Nawalka said through a translator.
“We knew the five players to take them. Emotions were running high so we had to check at the end of extra time if the players still wanted to take them. Everyone had to confirm, and all five of them did.
“Towards the latter stages of the match at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in the former industrial city of Saint-Etienne, Poland had been pinned back in its own half, seemingly content with the prospect of the penalty shootout.
Jakub Blaszczykowski scored his second goal of the tournament to give Poland the lead in the 39th minute with a low shot that went between the legs of Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
Switzerland equalized with an 82nd-minute bicycle kick from Xherdan Shaqiri to send the match into extra time.
Allowed far too much space on the edge of the area, Shaqiri jumped with his back to the net before firing a left-footed shot inside the post. Shaqiri was a constant threat to Poland with his speed of touch and play.
Switzerland substitute Eren Derdiyok had two good chances in the latter period of extra time to win the match but Lukasz Fabianski kept his team in the game.
Those saves were crucial as they set up the shootout that Poland had clearly prepared for.”In general we are very happy as we did something we had not done before,” Blaszczykowski said.
“This is a marvelous feeling. Did I know that whenever I’ve scored Poland have never lost? It is nice. Let’s hope it will stay like this all the way through to the final.”
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