Euro 2016: Northern Ireland vs Poland… Live!
by Ian | Jun 12, 2016
Thirty years of hurt, hmm? If not winning a major trophy counts as thirty years of hurt, then how do we think Northern Ireland fans might feel after thirty years without having qualified for the finals of a major tournament? Northern Ireland vs Poland has a hint of the early 1980s vibe about it. Northern Ireland’s team at the time of that era made two successive World Cups, whilst Poland reached the semi-finals in 1982. Can one of these two cause a surprise this summer? With Wales having beaten Slovakia yesterday, Northern Ireland may well be feeling confident as British underdogs, but we shall see.
Their group may not have been the most difficult one in the world, but for Northern Ireland to be here in the first place is still a significant achievement. They finished top of it, too, ahead of Romania and Hungary, who also qualified for these finals through the play-offs. Qualification from a considerably tougher group was managed by Poland. They finished as runners-up behind Germany – who are also in this finals group, alongside Ukraine – and with the Republic of Ireland finishing in third place. They also qualified through the play-offs. There is, of course, only one name on the lips of many watching this Poland team. Much of their team is a little run of the mill, but striker Robert Lewandowski is probably the best in Europe at the moment, and may be the best in the world. We’ll be back shortly before kick-off to bring you the entire match.
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Good afternoon everybody, I’m on duty for this one. Looking forward to it, actually. I think we’re due a surprise result in this tournament and think it would be quite nice of it were Northern Ireland to do it, after thirty years away from tournament football. There’s one big, Robert Lewandowski-shaped problem with this and, even notwithstanding this particular striker, Poland are due a good tournament. Back in five with your teams for this afternoon.
Northern Ireland: McGovern, McLaughlin, Ferguson, McAuley, Evans, Baird, Davis (C), Lafferty, Norwood, McNair, Cathcart.
Poland: Szczesny, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk, Macjzynski, Millik, Lewandowski, Krychowiak, Gillik, Blaszczykowski, Kapustka.
Good afternoon all. I’ll be joining Ian for this one mostly to vindicate the decision to give me a log-in but also because this tournament and therefore this game is the biggest thing to hit Northern Ireland since my Stag do in 2010. Expect insights.
As regular podcast listeners will be more than aware, the 1982 World Cup was my first and I can remember Northern Ireland beating Spain in Valencia as if it were yesterday. What I recall most clearly is that some of the talk before the tournament started concerned Luis Arconada being the best goalkeeper in the world. He wasn’t as his pawing of the ball into Gerry Armstrong’s path for the only goal of the match proved. Also, of course, Northern Ireland managed all of this having played a considerable proportion of the match with ten men after Mal Donaghy was sent off, and sendings off were nowhere near as prevalent then as they are nowadays.
For me, my only memories of NI football are some classic Pro Evo 6 battles between me and my mate (I was Iran) and of course their excellent run in the Sanchez era. Mostly coz I’m young.
Wonder how many corners Michael O’Neill will have Kyle Lafferty taking today…
I just had to ask Twitter what Northern Ireland use as their national anthem. It’s God Save The Queen, which I can’t imagine being too popular in some quarters.
Only time I’m going to mention it I swear.
Fuss about nothing, that, I thought. I mean, I’m prepared to accept that the England coaching staff know more about this sort of thing than most of us, and if they feel that Kane is the right choice to take corners for England, I’m down with it.
You are not going to provoke me Ian. I am balanced and focused and ready to see the Northern Ireland continue their unbeaten run.
Of course the interesting thing will be the fitness of Lafferty. England have experience of things never working out when you rush a talismanic player back so I hope he is fully fit as I think all 11 players are going to be needed to contain Poland.
Was worried for a second that I wouldn’t be able to switch to radio commentary which is an absolute must for all BBC games. Luckily it has just appeared and we’re off and underway with some early Polish pressure.
Free kick had been given but was hit so terribly you’d think it was Harry Kane taking a corner and the early Polish moment comes to nowt.
Some good early Polish pressure continues with some excellent interplay and a cross deflected coming in from the right hand side. Poland looking like a decent team attacking a limited one so far here.
I’m still recovering from the fact that the substitute goalkeepers for this match are Artur Boruc and Roy Carroll. I’m getting flashbacks.
NI look like they’re set up for Bus Parking 101 allowing Poland all the ball in the first two thirds of the pitch and getting their inner Gandalf on when they enter the final third.
And while they haven’t conceded in these first 5 minutes Poland have had some opportune moments in the NI box especially with Milik absolutely fluffing his lines when found.
This has the feel of an old school 3rd round FA Cup tie with the big side at home and NI are playing like the 4th division underdogs at the moment.
Milik found again as a Polish attack comes down the left and Milik puts a weak effort wide. Poland might want to try and find that World Class number 9 they have instead of Milik with these balls.
Gerry Taggart already despairing of NI’s come and get us tactics. Clearly he’s a man who prefers to be harder to get.
Exactly what you said there, Gav. I’m not sure that Northern Ireland are going to be able to sustain defending against this amount of attacking for the whole of the match. Perhaps there’s a plan to try and open up as the game goes on.
Fifteen minutes in and NI now look to try some of that possession nonsense as they knock the ball around the defence before launching one up towards Steven Davis who buys a throw on the NI right adjacent to the pelanty area. It comes to nowt.
More NI possession after a long ball nodded down from Lafferty to Davis. Some good midfield play followed before Shane Ferguson fizzes a low cross straight to the goalkeeper but tbf Lafferty wasn’t chasing.
Poland attack from the back and win a corner which Lewandowski doesn’t take. Nothing comes of it though.
NI have started to see a bit more of the ball than the none they saw in the first few minutes but Poland still look very dangerous and the NI defending still feels quite last ditch at times.
I am inclined to think that the break is Northern Ireland’s best chance of a goal this afternoon. Poland are already committing quite a lot forward, and I’d be less than surprised if they leave bigger and bigger gaps at the back, should they not score. This really is a must-win match for Poland.
Poland definitely come with more expectation especially after their poor showing at their own tournament four years ago.
If the break is going to come it’s going to via the Lafferty, Ferugson and Davis axis. These three look the most dangerous for NI so far.
At the moment Poland are penning NI in again with Davis doing some excellent defensive work to avoid giving away a corner and just conceding a throw in. He isn’t going to score many goals from there however.
A moment for NI with some good possession and then a good old fashioned hoof from Jonny Evans into the box. Lafferty bundles into Szczesny as he claims but it was all done in the best of spirits so the ref doesn’t bother booking him.
McGovern a little shaky in dealing with that – fairly routine – save, there. I’m probably being a little over-critical here, but it always irks me a bit when a goalkeeper doesn’t catch a catchable ball, even if they have a damn good reason for doing so.
Milik gets one on target as he spanks the ball from well outside the box as Poland break quickly after catching NI in possession. Easy pickings for McGovern though.
Milik spanks the ball high and wide with the best chance of the game as the Poland come down the right again. He’s six yards out and really they should get someone else to go into the box rather than him.
Ohhh, a miss and a half from Millik, there. Did all the really hard work in getting himself into position, but he worked too hard on it and was off-balance by the time he shot. Poland should really have gone a goal up from that.
You’ve got to be putting those away for me Clive.
Milik seems to have all the composure of Aaron Ramsey in the penalty area which must be very annoying when the ball keeps finding him rather than your World Class striker.
NI playing with Leicester style possession percentages but without the counter-attacking menace of the Premier League Champions (still feels weird to type that).
Germany will be pleased with Poland’s stodginess in front of goal, so far. They’re playing Ukraine tonight, of course, and I’m on the live blog for that.
Poland work some ball but Kaputska gets bored and shoots from wel outside the box to nowhere. From getting back the possession though they win a corner despite Jonny Evans’ best efforts.
First very good save McGovern stops Kaputska
Great save by McGovern. Had to look three times at the “handball”, which in itself is proof to me that it wasn’t handball. The resulting corner has more than a hint of Sunday League about it, but the eventual shot hits the side-netting.
Second corner came in and caused chaos. There were shouts for a Lafferty handball as the ball pinged and ponged out before it fell to Kaputska who struck it sweetly and saw it saved.
Some good sustained pressure for Poland and a classic call for half-time by Gerry Taggart
Blaszczykowski called for diving much to his chagrin just as Jonny Evans was going postal as he thought the freekick had been called against him. It would’ve been in a very good central area so no surprise.
So, Northern Ireland are halfway there but the second half is going to be more difficult than the first and they need to create something at the other end, at least. Goalless at half-time. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.
Half time then and somehow NI’s slightly shonky bus parking has worked. Milik missed an absolute gilt-edged opportunity, Kaputska forced a decent save friom McGovern and there were lots of twenty people in the box and the ball bobbles everywhere madness.
Second half imminent then and I don’t know what Ian expects but for me (Clive) if NI come out and play like they did in the first half then this will be 2-0 Poland by whistle’s end.
Dallas has come on McNair for NI was they look to have altered shape. They look like they’re pushing Ferguson and and Dallas forward and going to a 4-2-3-1.
Clearly I meant come on for McNair in that last update but I’m not deleting it because the typo is funny.
Davis is in that advanced midfield line alongisde Ferguson and Dallas which is excellent for NI’s attacking intentions but does deprive them of someone who did some sterling defensive work in the firs half.
And lo and behold Milik scores. 1-0 Poland.
Ball comes down that Polish right hand side again and the ball is slid across to an onrunning Milik who takes a touch and shoots from just inside the box past McGovern. All that resolute defending from the first half comes to nowt.
Ah, there it is. Millik with a nice low finish wide of the goalkeeper. Interested to see how the Northern Ireland game plan is now.
Well, they just changed the system but it’s not the system change that was the problem but a poor header from Evans that opened up the opportunity.
Fans of 90s song based football chants begin to wonder when and not if we will see Will Grigg soon.
NI have a freekick on the left hand side of the pelanty area.
Poor freekick taken like a tribute act to a Harry Kane corner. NI need to make the most of such opportunities if they are going to get back into this.
The extra width from Ferguson and Dallas is evident and they certainly look slightly livlier in attack. Poland continue to look dangerous and ready to pounce on any NI sloppiness though.
Wonderful underdog story Connor Washington is coming on for NI. If you didn’t know he was a Cornish postman not too long ago and was playing for St Ives town.
Poland have had several marauds forward as NI come at them a bit more and the space they find is proving dangerous. NI are keeping them out for the moment though.
I’m far from certain how Northern Ireland will cope with Germany. All eyes on the Ukraine match, if they want to have much chance of getting through the group stages.
Poland fans start to olé during a lengthy period of Polish possession which tells you all you need to know about how this second half has unfolded so far.
First booking of the game for Kaputska if you’ve had a flutter on that. he crucnhes Chris Baird in the centre circle after Baird had won possession back.
Connor Washington is on for Shane Ferguson then. Dallas swaps flanks and then from the resulting freekick the ball comes into the box and is deflected out for a corner.
Corner is duly punched away hard by Sczezeny making you wonder if the ball had insulted his mother earlier or something.
Was that Northern Ireland’s best chance of the match, there? Perhaps the substitution will freshen things up a bit.
Cathcart booked now. Tackles are getting sloppier and the game is getting more open. Not sure it will benefit NI though as Poland look like they could be a very dangerous counter-attacking side.
Set-pieces feel like NI’s best opportunity but the few they’ve had so far haven’t been executed anywhere near as well as you would want or expect if you were Michael O’Neill.
And if you are Michael O’Neill what the hell are you doing reading this?
Excellent run from Connor Washington as he gets free from his defender but a heavy touch means Sczezeny can gather it up and smother the attack. THAT was the best chance for NI so far.
Some excellently worked ball from Poland in and around the NI pelanty area sees Blaszczykowski finally belt the ball wide from outside the box.
And as we go tit-for-tat Lafferty attempts a goal of the tournament overhead kick from just inside the Poland box and it goes over the bar.
This game is running out of energy a bit, I think. Kyle Lafferty’s shot there was a little on the over-ambitious side.
NI have rolled their last substitution dice with Jamie Ward coming on for Baird. No more can Michael O’Neill do now.
Lafferty definitely dared to Zlatan there. Unfortunately he’s no Zlatan.
Of course, the most pressing question of the evening is: Is Connor Washington twelve stories high and made of radiation?
He would certainly be the most terrifying postman you’d ever see.
A couple of half-chances and Lewa’s won a corner.
Boo. I can’t make that embed at all.
In more important news I put a beer in the freezer at half-time and have just gone to get it and it hasn’t frozen.
Actually, it may have partially frozen. Is it fair to say that NI have done the same here today?
NI are pushing a little more now with Washington, Dallas, Lafferty and Davis getting into more and more dangerous areas.
Ahhh. A really well worked freekick played from just inside the Polish half low to Steve Davis who ran round the side of the wall but missed his touch and the ball harmlessly went wide. Excellent opportunity.
Krychowiak smacks a ball from 25 or so and was a whisker away from scoring with McGovern despairingly diving. Just wide though.
Another NI freekick on the left of the box.
(I’m having to watch this on IPlayer, so I’m running a minute or two behind you, here)
Freekick is wasted by Norwood who floats it over everyone like an overenthusiastic 11 year old taking a freekick on Fifa.
Or Harry Kane taking a corner. Whichever analogy you prefer.
Long ball comes into the box and Piszczek and Sczezeny clean each other out. Try calling to each other lads. NI can’t make anything of it though.
Talking of FIFA, I think Poland tonight have been a little like playing on the easiest level badly. They’ve had almost all the possession, but have wasted their chances until the one that clicked, but you get the feeling that they didn’t quite understand how they did it.
Ha ha. Yeah, there has definitely been a sense of that.
As proved by the goalkeeper slamming into his own defender, there.
Anyways it’s all over here. Poland take it 1-0 with Milik proving that if first you don’t succeed Norther Ireland will give you the opportunity to try again and try again he did.
Poland deserve their win there. That will have been a frustrating afternoon for them especially with all the fluffed chances and missed lines but they got the job done and look to have some very handy players. Keep an eye on that Kaputska especially.
As for Northern Ireland? I think they started with the wrong game plan. Michael O’Neill went for a bus parking and just allowed Poland to pummel then. He then changed it in the second half by degrees but once Milik scored they just couldn’t get into a rhythm. You wonder what would’ve happened if he had been a little bit bolder in his team selection and put Poland under a bit pressure early on.
Ukraine vs them for 3rd spot seems like the shout although who knows which Ukraine might turn up. They face the World Champions in just over an hour.
It’s an old adage, but a truism.
I don’t know anything more about either team than I did before this started. We knew that Northern Ireland were limited, that they would be cautious and that the big issue for them would probably be where their goals were coming from. Poland, meanwhile, were more pedestrian than I’d expected and wasted chances that they cannot afford not to miss against better opposition. They’ll need to raise their game against better opposition, which they will be facing soon. Difficult to argue that Poland weren’t worth the points. I’ll be back for Germany vs Ukraine in a while.
And I’m off to go and moan to anyone who will listen about strikers taking corners.