How do you celebrate your team’s first qualification for a UEFA European Championship knockout stage? If you are Poland goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański, you do it by plotting new targets.
Adam Nawałka’s side made history by reaching the last 16 with a 1-0 victory in Marseille on Tuesday, taking their Group C total to seven points and just missing out on top spot on goal difference alone. Next up are Switzerland in Saint-Etienne on Saturday, and Fabiański sees no reason why Poland cannot improve on their performances so far.
“I’m very happy that for the first time in our history we’ve advanced to the next phase,” he said, having kept clean sheets against Germany and Ukraine after stepping in for the injured Wojciech Szczęsny.
“What’s more, we’ve reached the next round of a major tournament for the first time in 30 years. It’s a reason to celebrate, but on the other hand I know it can get even better.”
It’s hard to argue with that assessment, particularly with the Poles looking so solid at the back, thanks in no small part to the Swansea City custodian. “Seven points in three matches in a really difficult group with no goals conceded and two scored – that’s really impressive,” he said.
“We ended the group almost equal with the world champions in first place. I think we can be really proud of ourselves.”
There was certainly much to admire about Poland’s win against Ukraine, and Fabiański believes his side’s team spirit can now serve them well in the latter stages. “We had to defend and didn’t have as much possession as we’d have liked,” he explained.
“However, once again we showed our character as a team, and even though parts of the game didn’t go as we’d hoped, we still got the victory. That really says a lot about us.”
So too does their new-found habit of breaking fresh ground. Poland’s maiden knockout berth comes hot on the heels of their first ever UEFA EURO triumph – against Northern Ireland – while Jakub Błaszczykowski’s goal against Ukraine made him the first Polish player to register in two separate continental final tournaments.
That took ‘Kuba’ to 17 goals for his country, and Poland have never lost when he has found the net. The Fiorentina midfielder has emerged as something of a talisman, in fact, and Poland fans would be ecstatic if he can do it again against the Swiss. After all, there is plenty more history left to be made.