Poland coach Adam Nawalka revealed his side have been working on their penalties after they scored all five to beat Switzerland in a shoot-out to reach their first ever European Championships quarter-final.
A Jakub Blaszczykowski strike had looked to be enough in normal time for Poland only for Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri to make it 1-1 with a tremendous athletic volley to send the game into extra time.
With no winning goal found, the tie was decided on penalties with new Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka missing and Sevilla’s Grzegorz Krychowiak hammering home the winning penalty as Poland enjoyed a 100 per cent record in the shootout – advancing after a 5-4 success.
Krychowiak struck the winner after Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik and Blaszczykowski had already scored for the Poles.
The victory means they have qualified for the last eight of Euro 2016, the first time they have progressed so far, and Nawalka was quick to praise the approach of his successful penalty takers.
“Preparing for this match, we tried to improve our penalties, and we knew they’d be taken in the best possible way,” he told the post-match press conference in quotes carried on uefa.com.
“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.”
Lewandowski may have tucked away the first penalty for Poland but the Bayern Munich striker is yet to score a goal in the tournament.
The 27-year-old is the talisman for Poland and Nawalka anticipates he will find the net soon and is happy with his contribution so far.
“Robert Lewandowski is doing phenomenal work for this team,” he added.
“He’s an incredibly important player for this side. He helps the team to be better, stronger. He helps them be better players. And what’s most important is the result of the team, and Robert is part of the team.”
“I’m confident the break will happen in the next match, and let our opponents be afraid from there.”
No blame on Xhaka – Swiss coach
Switzerland were arguably the better side during the game and created more chances – despite relying on Shaqiri’s superb overhead kick eight minutes from full time to stay in the game.
Xhaka’s poor penalty, which the midfielder drove well wide of Lukasz Fabianski’s goal, proved to be enough to see Vladimir Petkovic’s side eliminated.
“I’m very sad for Granit Xhaka, but it’s not just about him,” the Swiss coach said.
“Switzerland lost and I’m sad about that. The players gave everything and showed what they can do on the pitch. But unfortunately we made mistakes and paid for that. And then it was the lottery of penalties – if you miss one, it can be crucial.”