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Poles look to catch Croats on the hop

SoccerNews in European Championships 15 Jun 2008

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Poland's grizzled veteran of a coach Leo Beenhakker has all but conceded that the controversial last-minute penalty which handed Austria a draw with them on Thursday effectively eliminated them from Euro 2008.

However, the 65-year-old must still gee up his troops for their final match against an impressive Croatia side and hope that an impressive win over them and an Austrian win over Germany can achieve a miracle.

Though given that Austria has a slightly better goal difference it really will need to be a crushing win for the Poles, which on the evidence of the previous two matches does not seem likely and makes it even more surprising that the Poles finished ahead of Portugal in their qualifying group.

One thing going for Beenhakker is that Croatian coach Slaven Bilic is unlikely to field his first choice side now that they are definitely in the quarter-finals.

Bilic, though, insists that he is not going to take his foot off the pedal even if he is going to rest several players, especially those who are on yellow cards.

“We will play honestly. Not for Austria and Germany, but for ourselves,” said the 39-year-old.

“However, the players who have already been booked (Robert Kovac, Josip Simunic, Luka Modric, Darijo Srna and Jerko Leko) will not play.

“We are not idiots and we don't want to risk them (a second booking would rule them out of the quarter-final).”

“The target and the demands will still be the same as all the other matches, to win,” said Bilic.

Beenhakker has not enjoyed much luck in his campaign and as Napoleon said all he wanted was to be brought lucky generals and one feels Beenhakker wouldn't have been on his list – especially as for such an experienced coach he is yet to win a match at a major finals.

However, he believes that his team has recovered its spirit and is focussed on its goal.

“All we can do is win our game – for the rest we are in the waiting room and we know that. It is out of our control,” he told the UEFA website.

The men most likely to be turned to by Beenhakker to get the goals after his frontline has been decimated by injuries, will be Brazilian-born Roger Guerreiro and Marek Saganowski.

The 29-year-old, who plays for English Championship side Southampton, set up Guerreiro for their goal against Austria but admits that it is a tough ask for him and his team-mates to raise themselves for the Croatian game after the penalty blow.

“It will be very hard to lift morale and confidence after what's happened,” he told the UEFA website.

“We have to play Croatia, who will be on a high after beating Germany 2-1.

“It should be a good game but a hard one for us. Our confidence will be low.”

One player who will at least be in good spirits will be Poland's outstanding goalkeeper Artur Boruc, for quite apart from three brilliant saves that kept Poland in the game early on against Austria, his wife gave birth to their first son earlier this week.

For the Poles they are still hanging on to the slender thread of hope of a miracle – there again Saganowski has already experienced a miracle as a motorcycle accident in the 1990's left the doctors fearing he would never walk again.

He defied that diagnosis and here on Monday he will hope that the Poles defy the odds and pull off what would be an extraordinary Houdini act.

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