Evening. You never forget your first time, even if it is an occasion fraught with embarrassment and an inability to maintain eye contact afterwards. Not that Poland would know. After five attempts, they are yet to experience their first victory at a European Championship, and that's a record that needs to end at the sixth time of asking tonight. Nothing less than a win against the Czech Republic will do for them, else they'll be exiting their own tournament at the first hurdle and while we make every attempt to maintain neutrality in these parts, it would be a dreadful shame if a side that has played some cracking football in their first two games leaves us now. It's now or never for Poland and this could either be one of the most exhilarating nights in their history or one of the most deflating. Win and it's eye contact all round. Maybe even some hugging too.
Poland's miserable record at the Euros is a slightly misleading statistic however, because this is only the second time they've been involved in one. Euro 2008 was the first time they qualified – and this time it's as co-hosts – and then they were dumped out in the first round, picking up only one point from their three group games. They were beaten by Germany, because they are always beaten by Germany, and then in their second match they were leading Austria in stoppage time, only for England's Howard Webb to deny them all three points by awarding a controversial and hotly-debated penalty against Poland. Poor old Howard! His decision more or less knocked Poland out and led to him receiving death threats; not too surprising when Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, revealed he wanted to "kill" Webb. Now that's how to set an appropriate example. Let's hope Dave C is taking notes for when England get knocked out.
It's difficult to judge precisely where Poland stand after their first two matches. Solely taking their opening match into account when they contrived to draw with 10-man Greece from a winning position, it could be surmised that they are chokers prone to freezing when the pressure is on, but then they managed to draw with 11-man Russia, one of the tournament's most impressive sides so far, in their second game. Which Poland will we see tonight?
Whereas it's win or bust for the Poles, the Czechs know that a draw will do for them, assuming Greece don't beat Russia. Which is extremely unlikely, so a point should suffice for them. That in itself presents them with a tricky dilemma, because playing for a draw is a dangerous game, especially if Petr Cech has another one of the brain melts that only seem to afflict him when playing for his country. However when your striker is expert blind alley locator Milan Baros, sometimes a draw will do just fine. The Czechs have been a mixed bag, sliced and diced by Russia and then victorious against Greece thanks to a whirlwind start. This lot are not a patch on the side of Pavel Nedved, Jan Koller, Karel Poborsky and, er, Milan Baros from 2004, but are capable of frustrating Poland. The wait could go on.
Kick-off: 7.45pm BST.
Team news: A huge blow for the Czech Republic, Tomas Rosicky failing to recover from his achilles injury. What a brilliant signing by Arsenal he was in January. He's replaced in the Czech midfield by Daniel Kolar. Poland are unchanged, Tyton keeping his place in goal despite the return of Wojciech Szczesny after his suspension.
Czech Republic: Cech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky; Pilar, Hubschman, Jiracek, Kolar, Plasil; Baros. Subs: Lastuvka, Suchy, Hubnik, Necid, Rezek, Rosicky, Petrzela, Rajtoral, Pekhart, Lafata, Darida, Drobny.
Poland: Tyton; Piszczek, Wasilewski, Perquis, Boenisch;, Dudka, Polanski; Blaszczykowski, Murawski, Obrania; Lewandowski.Subs: Szczesny, Wojtkowiak, Kaminski, Matuszczyk, Rybus, Wawrzyniak, Sobiech, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Brozek, Sandomierski.
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)
Permutations: Russia will go through with a draw against Greece, while the Czechs only need a draw against Poland to go through. Poland and Greece both need to win to progress. Got it? Good.
BBC predictions: Alan Shearer, Clarence Seedorf and David Moyes are all going for Poland. I'm also going for Poland. Sorry Poland.
Here come the teams. Apparently a storm is coming in Wroclaw as well. Here's hoping there's no repeat of the astonishing events in yesterday's match between France and Ukraine in Donetsk.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, KICK-OFF! Which eedjit dreamt up that countdown? Would fans not know the game's started without it? Anyway off we go. Poland, all in white and attacking from right to left, get us going. As the 'home' team, the Czech Republic are all in red. It's an absolutely belting atmosphere, chants of "Polska! Polska!" assaulting my ears. Down on the right flank, Lewandowski's hard work earns him a free-kick in a decent position.
2 min: Obraniak whips the free-kick into the area, towards the general direction of Lewandowski, leading to a spot of head tennis. Poland win a couple of aerial duels, before the ball comes to Dudka around 10 yards from goal. With his back to goal, he produces an ambitious overhead kick which slithers past Cech and into the side-netting. For a moment, it looked like it was in. Half the crowd thought it was and were already celebrating.
4 min: This is already an end-to-end ripsnorter. Gebre-Selassie bursts past a feeble challenge from Boenisch and cuts the ball back to Pilar, all alone in a central position 12 yards from goal. He should score, but instead Van Persies it, completely missing his kick. What a let-off for Poland. That should have been the opener for the Czechs.
5 min: Blaszczykowski tricks his way past Kadlec on the right side of the area. The defender hangs out a leg and the Polish midfielder accepts the invitation too go down a little too easily. Another chance for Obraniak and he may shoot this time.
6 min: And indeed he does shoot. With everyone expecting a cross, Obraniak curls a delicious left-footed effort around the wall and into the side-netting with Cech standing still. Again a huge roar went up; again it was an illusion. They should have gone to Specsavers. Lol.
8 min: This is relentless. Blaszczykowski is played into the area by a clever prod from Murawski. Cech comes hurtling off his line to tighten the angle and does well to block Blaszczykowski's effort behind for a corner, which is cleared despite a half-hearted cry for handball against a Czech defender. We could have had four goals already. More please, Poland! More please, the Czech Republic!
9 min: Nothing has happened for at least 10 seconds. This is rubbish.
10 min: What a chance for Robert Lewandowski. The Czech Republic try to stroke the ball around like Spain at the back. They're not Spain. They're not even England on this evidence. Inevitably they make a complete hash of it, and Murawski, pressing high up the pitch, is quick to seize on any error. Suddenly the Czech defence is all over the place and Murawski swiftly moves the ball to his left to Lewandowski. His first touch takes him past Gebre-Selassi and into the area, but his second slices the ball past the left post from 15 yards out. He looked bound to score there.
12 min: The Czechs are rocking and a strong run from A Polish Player on the right is halted by a desperate foul from Limbersky, who's booked.
13 min: This can't go on. Obraniak, he of the educated left foot, curls a devilish ball into the six-yard box. With two Polish attackers closing in, Kadlec does brilliantly to get his head to the ball. His clearance only falls as far as Boenisch though. Twelve yards out, he slashes the rebound wide of the right post. The Czech Republic are a complete rabble at the moment, but Poland have to take one of these chances.
15 min: Poland are utterly rampant, but still can't make that crucial breakthrough. They should be 5-1 up already. Murawski finds space on the right, just outside the area, but fires a shot over the bar when he might feel he should have at least tested Cech. A goal isn't so much in the post as sent by recorded delivery.
16 min: All of which means the Czech Republic are bound to take the lead via Milan Baros's derriere any minute now.
18 min: "Come now Jacob, maybe the Countdown started because some UEFA bright spark suggested using Europe's ''The Final Countdown'' before games, but things got lost in translation? (It is a great song," says Ryan Dunne. "Perhaps only "Ghostbusters" (the song) is a better exemplar of the time and genre)." What goes on in that head of yours, Ryan?
19 min: "The referee looks suspiciously like Lewandowski," says Matt Dony. "I smell a stitch up!" That's racist. Expect a strongly worded letter from Uefa to arrive shortly.
20 min: The Czechs mount an attack for the first time since the fourth minute, but Kolar's pass through to Baros is cut out by Wasilewski. That was poorly executed from Kolar, because Baros was in acres of space. He would have found the nearest blind ally, but still.
22 min: A cross from the left is cleared with some difficulty by the Czech defence, who are hanging on for dear life here. It only comes to Boenisch, around 25 yards out, and his looping, awkward volley is pushed past the left post by Cech. That was a difficult save, because it bounced right in front of Cech. The resulting corner from Obraniak bounces around the Czech area before being hacked away. Back it comes though, but Polanski's header is straight at Cech. Up the other end, Murawski picks up a booking.
25 min: For all the Polish dominance, more than a quarter of the game has passed without them taking the lead. The Czechs will hardly be satisfied with their performance so far, but the longer this goes on, the more the frustration will grow for Poland. They will know they really should already be in front.
26 min: Piszczek and Blaszczykowski combine down the right after a storming counter from Poland, but Blaszczykowski's touch runs away from him inside the area and he's hustled out of it.
27 min: Above the stadium, the rumble of thunder. It is absolutely tipping it down.
29 min: Limbersky wins a corner for the Czechs on the left. Plasil sends it into the near post and Kalac heads it over under pressure.
30 min: It would be a shame if this is the last we saw of this Poland side at Euro 2012, because there is a carefree innocence to their play. At their best, their freewheeling style sort of resembles Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao last season. The relentless pace with which they attack is pleasingly invigorating.
33 min: The Czechs have slightly quelled the storm in the last 10 minutes and are starting to get a foothold in the game now. Poland's attacks aren't clicking as freely as they were in the opening 20 minutes, the consequence of not making their early dominance count.
34 min: Gebre-Selassi's is the Czech Republic's most dangerous outlet. He finds space on the right and his cross takes a deflection, requiring a timely intervention from Wasilewski with red shirts waiting to pounce.
36 min: "Do more set piece goals get scored when it rains?" says Andrew Cheung. Is that a serious question? You don't really want an answer, do you?
37 min: There's the danger for Poland. A lovely ball over the top of the Polish defence finds Milan Baros's clever run into the area. He's played onside by the dozy Boenisch but just can't pluck the ball out of the sky, allowing it to run through to Tyton. That would have been the ultimate sucker-punch.
39 min: Poland have lost their way a little here and the Czech Republic are on top now. A sustained spell of Czech possession ends with Plasil having a pop from 25 yards out. It takes a deflection and skids up off the surface and Poland are grateful to see it fly straight into the hands of Tyton. "Hypothetical question - what if every game in the group stages produced a 0-0 draw?" says Tom Boswell. "Who would go through? Would it be a crazy game of penalties? Tell me the answer, I NEED to know!" The ones with the most interesting formations, I think.
40 min: The ear-splitting whistles drifting around the gound indicate that Poland can't get a sniff of the ball now.
41 min: Pilar is found in a criminal amount of space on the left of the Poland area. He diddles inside and on to his right foot, only for one of his own team-mates to block his dribbler. The ball comes back to him and he slams a drive goalwards from the edge of the area. It's straight at Tyton, who grabs it at the second attempt with Baros in close attendance.
42 min: Poland show up up front for the first time in an age. Lewandowski's persistence wins the ball and he prods it to Murawski, whose scuffed effort from 18 yards out is deflected wide by Kadlec. The corner comes to nothing.
44 min: "So, if Poland make it to the quarterfinal, will they bring Szczesny back in and bench Tyton?" asks Andy Palmquist. "It's fair to say they've done better with Tyton in the team and, dare to say it, Szczesny is a bit of a liability. Plus, as a Spurs fan, I'd find it absolutely comical if Szczesny missed most of the tournament in his home country due to his own stupidity." No chance.
Half time: Czech Republic 0-0 Poland. After one second of stoppage time, the whistle is blown to bring an end to an enjoyable first half. Poland are 45 minutes away from exiting their own tournament and they'll be kicking themselves if they do, because they really should be ahead at the break. They were all over the Czech Republic for 20 minutes but couldn't score and the longer it went goalless, the more the Czechs grew. Poland seemed to lose a bit of belief. A big half time team-talk awaits from Franciszek Smuda.
Well this changes everything. Greece have incredibly taken the lead through Georgios Karagounis against Russia just before half time, so so as it stands both the Czech Republic and Poland are going out.
Here's the table as it stands at half time. Russia will win the group and Greece will finish second. A goal for either Poland or the Czech Republic would send them through and Russia out.
Half time emails.
"Great effort on typing Blaczyckowskijs's full name the whole night- when playing for Dortmund, his Jersey simply reads 'Kuba' which is his nckname," says Radbert Grimmig. "German journalists and supporters alike were quick to adopt it for some reason..." Nah, I'm a glutton for punishment. It's mbm showboating.
"Can we assume that Roy's 4-4-2 remains out of fashion rather than stylishly retro so a group of nil nil draws would have not been enough for us?" says David Williams. "Incidentally, what would be the optimally I interesting formation, one involving a 'false one' rather than the increasingly cliche 'false nine'?" A 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-0-1.
"Has there only been one penalty awarded so far in this tournament, the one that Greece missed?" says Alex Ross. "I'm struggling to find a decent stats site, any variation of googling throws up gambling sites, which I need to steer clear of..."
Eberhard Spohd has the following for what happens if every match finishes 0-0.
a) higher number of points obtained in the matches among the teams in question;
b) superior goal difference in the matches among the teams in question (if more
than two teams finish equal on points);
c) higher number of goals scored in the matches among the teams in question (if
more than two teams finish equal on points);
d) superior goal difference in all the group matches;
e) higher number of goals scored in all the group matches;
f) position in the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system (see Annex I,
g) fair play conduct of the teams (final tournament);
h) drawing of lots.
Should be point f then: the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system.
46 min: Off we go again. This could turn into a classic: previously only Poland needed to score, but now the Czechs need one as well due to Greece's goal.
47 min: An early sign of intent from the Czech Republic as they win a corner on the right. Plasil curls it in but Baros can't do anything with his header.
48 min: Polanski is booked for a preposterous challenge on Pilar. He will miss the quarter-final if Poland go through.
50 min: Blaszczykowski sends a high cross into the Czech area from the right, but it's overhit and Cech is able to watch it sail behind for a goal-kick. Up the other end, Limbersky goes on another charge down the left, winning another corner. Poland clear.
51 min: Baros darts across the area from the left and sees his effort deflected wide by Perquis. "I was pretty impressed with Obraniak in the first two games - has he been performing as well tonight?" asks Aisling Daly. "He was one of the players recruited from abroad that the Polish media and fans were complaining about before the tournament - he was born and raised in France but was eligible because his grandfather was Polish. I'd imagine the complaints have died down a bit after his performances?" Apart from his set-piece deliveries, he's not done a great deal tonight, but there's time yet.
53 min: Poland can barely string three passes together at the moment. They're freezing again and the Czech Republic are the more composed side. Which will mean nothing if they too don't score. "When you said there was a storm coming, were you doing weather or being apocalyptic?" says Ian Copestake. A bit of both really. A storm coming. Wash the scum off the streets.
54 min: The impressive Limbersky breaks into the area from the left, but loses his head, stabbing a ludicrous effort with the outside of his right boot into the side-netting from a tight angle. What a waste.
56 min: Poland replace Eugen Polanski with Kamil Grosicki.
56 min: Nothing's really clicking in the final third for both sides. It may take a moment of genius to break the deadlock. Or a set-piece. Or a mistake. Or even a good move. Could be anything really. Anything will do.
57 min: Pulitzer please!
59 min: This is poor from Poland. They're rabbits in the headlights again. There's a lack of belief in the stands and on the pitch, fans and players feeding off each other's nervous energy alike.
60 min: The anticipated classic is yet to materialise. It's so scrappy and it's come to the point where both teams need to throw caution to the wind, because fear has not been rewarded in this tournament.
61 min: Limbersky, perhaps the best player on the pitch, beats three Polish defenders on the left and is brought down inches outside the area, around five yards from the goaline, by Wasilewski.
63 min: The free-kick is cleared by Wasilewski - but Poland immediately concede another on the other flank. They're so ragged but breathe a sigh of relief as Gebre-Selassie heads over. "Are you and Evan allowed to communicate during the final group game MBMs?" says Simon McMahon. "How do we know that there is no collusion? If Poland and the Czechs go through does that mean that you go into the quarter finals and Evan goes home? Just so you know, I'm going to send this email to him too and see what happens." We're not actually allowed to communicate at all. Not after the restraining order.
64 min: Poland can't handle Pilar. Not in the legal sense anyway. He's pulled back after a flying run on the left and it's yet another free-kick to the Czech Republic. One of these is going to lead to a goal at some point, surely.
65 min: An almighty escape for Poland. Plasil whips the free-kick into the six-yard box and it hits the unwitting Sivok on the chest but fortunately for Poland, Tyton is in the right position to scramble a save.
67 min: "Howitzer please!" intones Ian Copestake. Poland have hardly been out of their half since the start of the second half.
68 min: A dreadful pass from Obraniak sets the Czechs off on a counter-attack. Jiracek runs at an exposed Poland defence and finds Baros, who selfishly and wastefully shoots straight at Tyton from 25 yards out when he had team-mates to his left and right. That's known as The Robben these days.
70 min: Poland can't say they won't have any regrets...
GOAL! Czech Republic 1-0 Poland (Jiracek, 72 min): At last, the Czech Republic make the breakthrough that they have been threatening for the entire second half. Once again, Poland lost the ball going forward and were left exposed at the back, having chucked too many men forward. Milan Baros charged at the backtracking Poland defence and incredibly, for the first time in his career, he lifted his head up and found Jiracek to his right. His first touch took him inside Wasilewski, who was sent sliding off into the distance, and then he slid a shot with his right foot past Tyton and into the bottom-right corner from 12 yards out. That's a wonderfully cool piece of play from Jiracek. The goal means the Czech Republic top the group as it stands, with Greece in second. Russia have to score once; Poland have to score twice. You wouldn't put your house on the latter happening.
73 min: Poland respond by making a double substitution, Mierzejewski and Brozek on for Obraniak and Murawski.
74 min: Lewandowski, starved of service in the second half, has a go from 25 yards out. It's straight at Cech.
77 min: Woeful defending from Piszczek allows Baros to run on to a clearance from Petr Cech of all people. Baros's first touch is too heavy though and Tyton slides out of his area to clear.
78 min: Plasic caresses a sumptuous free-kick into the area. A host of Czech players were queuing up to head it in, but somehow Dudka acrobatically hooked it behind. The corner is cleared.
80 min: Cech claws a corner from the right to the edge of the area. Piszczek hammers a volley goalwards and it flies straight into Jiracek's head. He takes the opportunity to have a quick lie-down, eating up valuable seconds.
81 min: Not many people would have expected both the Czech Republic and Greece to be heading through. It's a funny old game.
82 min: As it stands, it would probably be Germany v Greece in the quarter-final. Would Angela Merkel demand to manage the Greek team? I think that would be entirely reasonable.
84 min: The Czechs are killing the game now. The goalscorer, Petr Jiracek, is replaced by Rajtoral. "If things stay as they stand Czech Republic will top the group with a negative goal difference," says Wilf Waterhouse. "Surely a first in a major tournament?"
86 min: Dudka hammers a free-kick into the wall. The ball is put back into the area and it's flicked on to Wasilewski, who put a free header over. It wouldn't have counted anyway, because he was flagged offside.
87 min: After a set of handbags between both sets of players, Blaszczykowski and Plasil are both booked. That all came about when Plasil, who saw he was about to be replaced, started wandering about the pitch aimlessly, trying to waste more time. He was fooling no one. Eventually he's replaced by Jan Rezek.
89 min: Piszczek sends a cross into the six-yard box, but Lewandowski is beaten to it, the ball going behind for a corner. It comes to nothing. All a Poland goal would do now is send Russia through anyway. So every cloud.
90 min: Damien Perquis is booked for a tackle borne out of, shall we say, frustration.
90 min+1: Tomas Pekhart replaces Milan Baros, whose selfless assist could turn out to be so decisive. There will be four minutes of stoppage time.
90 min+2: This game is dying a slow death. Poland aren't going to score. They've been abysmal. The only interest now is whether Russia can find an equaliser. Oh Russia. To think they were being tipped as possible winners last Friday.
90 min+4: A superb clearance off the line from Kadlec keeps the Czech Republic in the tournament! Blaszczykowski spins away from his marker on the edge of the area and lobs the onrushing Cech from 15 yards out. It was heading in but amazingly Kadlec got back to head it off the line. A scramble ensued but the Czechs hacked it clear! What an ending! Told you Poland wouldn't score.
Full time: Czech Republic 1-0 Poland. And with that final chance, the full-time whistle is blown and the Czech Republic are through to the quarter-finals thanks to Petr Jiracek's late winner. The co-hosts, Poland, are out and they've still never won a game at the Euros. That's six games and running now, and frankly, save for a fine opening 20 minutes, they deserved nothing more from a cowardly performance. The Czechs are through as group winners because Greece have remarkably beaten Russia 1-0. Oh Russia. They were expected to breeze through and now look. As for the Czech Republic, they merited their win tonight for weathering the early Polish storm before calmly taking a stranglehold on the game, eventually wearing Poland down in the second half and taking their best chance clinically. For Poland, there is only disappointment after a second half in which they simply failed to turn up. To make matters worse, they finish bottom of Group A with just two points. Still, at least they don't have far to go home. Thanks for reading. Good night.