Thu, May 24, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Under-strength Poland edge Latvia in Euro warmup

AFP, Klagenfurt, Austria

Poland’s Grzegorz Wojtkowiak, left, and Latvia’s Aleksandrs Cauna fight for the ball during their international friendly match in Klagenfurt, Austria, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Euro 2012 hosts Poland gave their few traveling supporters reason to cheer as an under-strength side beat Latvia 1-0 during a pre-tournament tune-up on Tuesday.

In a near-empty stadium in Klagenfurt, where they also face Slovakia on Saturday in another pre-Euro friendly, Poland largely dominated their Baltic opponents.

However, despite a decent set of performances — notably Celtic FC striker Pawel Brozek and midfielders Adrian Mierzejewski of Trabzonspor and Rafal Murawski of Lech Poznan — they only made their mark in the final minutes when Artur Sobiech celebrated his first appearance since 2010 with the only goal.

That will give some cause for concern when they start the tournament proper with resilient opponents Greece, the Czech Republic and Russia in their group.

Poland manager Franciszek Smuda was nonetheless upbeat.

“Some say that the result’s not what it’s about and that simply playing is the key thing, but the lads won and that matters,” he said.

With Poland mid-way through a training camp in Austria, Smuda opted to rest the big names who have just wrapped up their club seasons, notably his Borussia Dortmund trio of striker Robert Lewandowski, midfielder Kuba Blaszczykowski and defender Lukasz Piszczek.

Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was also stood down allowing his understudy at club and national level Lukasz Fabianski to show his mettle.

Attacks were few and far between in the first half, though, Poland teenager Rafael Wolski took the eye on his debut.

Poland did at last get the ball in the net in the 55th minute through Werder Bremen defender Sebastian Boenisch, who latched onto a free-kick from Sivasspor midfielder Kamil Grosicki and found the net — however, it was ruled out for offside.

Grosicki, though, was to find his creative work rewarded less than 10 minutes from time as his pass was dispatched into the net by Hannover 96 forward Sobiech.

“This was a great result for the whole team,” Sobiech said. “I’m the joker in the pack at my club too!”

Klagenfurt brings back bad memories for Poland fans who recall their poor Euro debut in 2008.

Having failed to reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup and with an automatic hosts’ berth at Euro 2012, Poland will have gone 968 days without a competitive match by the time they begin the tournament, hosted with neighboring Ukraine, on June 8 in Warsaw.

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