Petr Jiracek scored the only goal of a scrappy game in Wroclaw to break Polish hearts and send Czech Republic into the quarter-finals as winners of Group A.
The Wolfsburg midfielder poked the ball beyond Poland goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton 18 minutes from time to dump the co-hosts out of Euro 2012.
Poland came into the game knowing that a win would have taken them into the last eight for the first time.
"In the second half Poland were poor. Whether it is fitness levels, concentration, I am not sure. They were a completely different team and to have no shots on goal is really, really poor. They are so reliant on the players from Dortmund. They did their best but simply they ran out of steam. You need 11 quality players to get through a tournament and I think realistically they only have two or three."
Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski had a last-gasp effort cleared off the line.
But Poland were left to rue enough missed chances to have rescued matters long before then.
The co-hosts had dominated the first half, creating and then spurning a series of opportunities that would ultimately cost them dear.
As the game wore on, Michal Bilek's Czech side turned the momentum their way to leave their opponents and a nation inconsolable at the final whistle.
The Czechs will now play the runners-up from Group B, likely to be either Portugal or Denmark, although the Netherlands also have a chance.
For Poland, the result was all the more painful with this billed a historic night, a night when a nation came together in an effort to write their own feel-good story.
Before kick-off a vast red-and-white flag was unfurled in the stands. It had taken 30 seamstresses three days to produce at the cost of £15,000 and though it carried no slogan, the message was clear. A nation expected.
Poland coach Franciszek Smuda had spoken of a fear that his side might be "paralysed by pressure". His words were ultimately to prove prophetic, yet in the early stages Poland were tremendous.
Sharper to the ball and swifter to use it, the co-hosts immediately found their fluency. Their attacking play was rapier sharp, their movement inventive.
Czechs in full possession
- 0-15 min: Cze 49%-51% Pol
- 15-30: Cze 57%-43% Pol
- 30-45: Cze 60%-40% Pol
- 45-60: Cze 72%-28% Pol
- 60-75: Cze 64%-36% Pol
- 75-90: Cze 47%-53% Pol
But while Poland's attacking quartet created a succession of clear-cut chances in an opening half-hour they dictated, all of them were, crucially, spurned.
Striker Robert Lewandowski had the best of them, linking up delightfully with Blaszczykowski only to slice a left-footed shot wide of the upright under pressure from Theodor Gebre Selassie.
Ludovic Obraniak's left-footed free-kicks were also a constant threat for Poland and twice almost brought goals.
The first curled narrowly wide of Cech's post, the second was blocked on its path to goal, before Sebastian Boenisch fired the rebound narrowly wide.
But just as the thunder and lightning started to rumble in the skies over Wroclaw, the momentum began to swing.
Poland crumbled as Czech Republic turned the tide in a way that defied logic.
The force, long absent, was with them now with the impish figure of Vaclav Pilar pulling the strings as the red shirts poured forward time and again, scattering white shirts like laundry torn from a washing line.
But while the Czechs were a constant danger now, it was news of a Greek goal in Warsaw that really changed the landscape of Group A at half-time, with both sides left knowing only a win would be enough.
If the opening exchanges had been accompanied by the overwhelming passion of the home support, the second half was played to a soundtrack of hushed tension.
David Limbersky's surging runs tore the Poland defence apart time and again, while the tireless Pilar probed and prodded in midfield.
For long periods, Poland were pinned deep in their own half.
First Pilar's scrambled shot was cleared, before Gebre Selassie rose to head narrowly over.
- This is the second time Czech Republic have qualified from a Euro group stage with a negative goal difference (also in 1996).
- Czech Republic are only the second side to top a group at the Euros despite conceding five goals (after Spain in 2000).
- Source: Opta Sports
Poland goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton was forced into a point-blank save when Tomas Sivok headed goalwards moments later but hope was visibly draining from the Polish players.
On the rare occasions they did break forward passes were misplaced, mistakes crept in.
It was from one such rare attack that the Czech Republic struck the blow that would decide the game. On this occasion it was Rafal Murawski who lost the ball - and the Czechs broke with devastating speed.
Milan Baros, for so long a bystander, beat his man and found Jiracek who broke into the penalty area, cut cleverly away from Boenisch's despairing tackle and rolled the ball into the net.
Tempers flared and frustrations boiled over as Poland began to recognise their fate.
But they battled on in the knowledge one goal could still deny the Czechs their place in the last eight. In the final minute Blaszczykowski found space in the area and managed to dink the ball over Cech.
The ball appeared goalbound but Michal Kadlec appeared from nowhere to divert the ball to safety and secure the Czechs safe passage on a night of high drama.Continue reading the main story
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Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +4:17
Robert Lewandowski takes a shot. Blocked by Theodor Gebre Selassie.90:00 +4:01
Jakub Blaszczykowski takes a shot. Tomas Sivok gets a block in.90:00 +3:22 Booking
Booking Tomas Pekhart is cautioned.90:00 +3:00
Sebastian Boenisch concedes a free kick for a foul on Tomas Hubschman. Petr Cech takes the free kick.90:00 +2:27
David Limbersky concedes a free kick for a foul on Pawel Brozek. Adrian Mierzejewski crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from right channel, clearance made by Daniel Kolar.90:00 +1:50
Free kick awarded for a foul by Adrian Mierzejewski on Jaroslav Plasil. Jaroslav Plasil takes the free kick.90:00 +0:37
Free kick awarded for a foul by Tomas Pekhart on Marcin Wasilewski. Free kick taken by Marcin Wasilewski.89:39
Free kick taken by Michal Kadlec.89:39 Substitution
Substitution Milan Baros leaves the field to be replaced by Tomas Pekhart.89:39 Booking
Booking Damien Perquis is cautioned.89:27
Unfair challenge on Jan Rezek by Damien Perquis results in a free kick.89:12
Corner from the right by-line taken by Jakub Blaszczykowski, Michal Kadlec manages to make a clearance.88:59
Robert Lewandowski takes a shot. Blocked by Tomas Sivok.88:05
Foul by Milan Baros on Damien Perquis, free kick awarded. Damien Perquis restarts play with the free kick.87:45
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Theodor Gebre Selassie by Kamil Grosicki. Petr Cech restarts play with the free kick.87:04
Direct free kick taken by Damien Perquis.87:04 Booking
Booking Jaroslav Plasil is booked.87:01 Booking
Booking Caution for Jakub Blaszczykowski.86:14 Substitution
Substitution Jan Rezek is brought on as a substitute for Vaclav Pilar.
Foul by Milan Baros on Damien Perquis, free kick awarded.85:28
Marcin Wasilewski is ruled offside. Indirect free kick taken by Petr Cech.84:25
Foul by Michal Kadlec on Robert Lewandowski, free kick awarded. Dariusz Dudka shoots direct from the free kick.82:54 Substitution
Substitution Frantisek Rajtoral replaces Petr Jiracek.82:03
The ball is crossed by Lukasz Piszczek, Michal Kadlec manages to make a clearance.81:23
David Limbersky gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Robert Lewandowski. Dariusz Dudka restarts play with the free kick.79:20
Lukasz Piszczek takes a shot. Petr Jiracek gets a block in.78:54
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Adrian Mierzejewski from the right by-line, save by Petr Cech.78:48
The ball is crossed by Jakub Blaszczykowski, blocked by David Limbersky.78:05
Corner taken by Jaroslav Plasil played to the near post, clearance made by Robert Lewandowski.77:05
Vaclav Pilar fouled by Adrian Mierzejewski, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed by Jaroslav Plasil, clearance by Dariusz Dudka.75:54
Inswinging corner taken by Adrian Mierzejewski from the right by-line, clearance by Michal Kadlec.74:58
Milan Baros is caught offside. Przemyslaw Tyton restarts play with the free kick.73:37
Robert Lewandowski takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.72:39
Direct free kick taken by Dariusz Dudka.72:39 Substitution
Substitution Rafal Murawski goes off and Adrian Mierzejewski comes on.72:39
Unfair challenge on Dariusz Dudka by Vaclav Pilar results in a free kick.72:13 Substitution
Substitution (Poland) makes a substitution, with Pawel Brozek coming on for Ludovic Obraniak.71:14
The assist for the goal came from Milan Baros.71:14 Goal scored
Goal! - Petr Jiracek - Czech Rep 1 - 0 Poland Petr Jiracek scores a goal from inside the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Czech Republic 1-0 Poland.70:42
Damien Perquis fouled by Milan Baros, the ref awards a free kick. Damien Perquis takes the direct free kick.69:52
Foul by Daniel Kolar on Marcin Wasilewski, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Damien Perquis.67:28
Milan Baros takes a shot. Save by Przemyslaw Tyton.66:35
Robert Lewandowski fouled by Michal Kadlec, the ref awards a free kick. Jakub Blaszczykowski takes the free kick.66:04
Milan Baros concedes a free kick for a foul on Marcin Wasilewski. Free kick taken by Lukasz Piszczek.65:00
Kamil Grosicki concedes a free kick for a foul on Theodor Gebre Selassie. Theodor Gebre Selassie takes the direct free kick.63:29
Free kick awarded for a foul by Lukasz Piszczek on Vaclav Pilar. The ball is swung over by Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Sivok takes a shot. Save by Przemyslaw Tyton.61:50
Dariusz Dudka challenges Tomas Sivok unfairly and gives away a free kick. Jaroslav Plasil sends in a cross, Header by Theodor Gebre Selassie from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.60:34
Free kick crossed by Jaroslav Plasil, clearance by Marcin Wasilewski.60:34 Booking
Booking Marcin Wasilewski receives a caution.60:28
David Limbersky fouled by Marcin Wasilewski, the ref awards a free kick.60:09
Unfair challenge on Petr Jiracek by Sebastian Boenisch results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Theodor Gebre Selassie.58:45
Free kick awarded for a foul by Dariusz Dudka on Vaclav Pilar. Direct free kick taken by David Limbersky.57:32
Kamil Grosicki gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Daniel Kolar. Tomas Hubschman takes the free kick.56:53
A cross is delivered by Kamil Grosicki, save by Petr Cech.56:22
Theodor Gebre Selassie is caught offside. Damien Perquis takes the indirect free kick.56:11
Free kick awarded for a foul by Michal Kadlec on Robert Lewandowski. Direct free kick taken by Rafal Murawski.55:08
Tomas Sivok restarts play with the free kick.55:08 Substitution
Substitution (Poland) makes a substitution, with Kamil Grosicki coming on for Eugen Polanski.55:08
Robert Lewandowski challenges Tomas Hubschman unfairly and gives away a free kick.54:07
Jakub Blaszczykowski gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on David Limbersky. Michal Kadlec restarts play with the free kick.53:26
David Limbersky produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.53:16
Theodor Gebre Selassie crosses the ball.52:21
Foul by Damien Perquis on Milan Baros, free kick awarded. Michal Kadlec takes the direct free kick.50:56
Corner taken by Jaroslav Plasil from the right by-line to the near post, Damien Perquis makes a clearance.50:36
Milan Baros takes a shot. Marcin Wasilewski gets a block in.50:08
The ball is crossed by Jaroslav Plasil, Damien Perquis makes a clearance.49:44
Short corner taken by Vaclav Pilar.48:52
Vaclav Pilar concedes a free kick for a foul on Rafal Murawski. Ludovic Obraniak takes the direct free kick.47:50
Unfair challenge on Marcin Wasilewski by Milan Baros results in a free kick. Marcin Wasilewski restarts play with the free kick.47:04
Direct free kick taken by Jaroslav Plasil.47:04 Booking
Booking Eugen Polanski is shown a yellow card.47:01
Eugen Polanski gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Vaclav Pilar.46:49
The ball is sent over by Vaclav Pilar, Sebastian Boenisch manages to make a clearance.45:59
Inswinging corner taken by Jaroslav Plasil.45:01
The second half has started.45:00 +0:08 Half time
Half Time The whistle is blown to end the first half.44:38
Eugen Polanski concedes a free kick for a foul on Tomas Hubschman. Free kick taken by Tomas Sivok.43:29
The ball is swung over by David Limbersky, clearance made by Marcin Wasilewski.43:09
Corner taken short by Vaclav Pilar.42:53
Vaclav Pilar takes a shot. Blocked by Marcin Wasilewski.42:07
Effort on goal by Lukasz Piszczek from long range goes over the crossbar.41:49
Corner taken left-footed by Ludovic Obraniak from the left by-line, Vaclav Pilar makes a clearance.41:35
Rafal Murawski takes a shot. Michal Kadlec gets a block in.40:46
Vaclav Pilar takes a shot. Save by Przemyslaw Tyton.40:26
Vaclav Pilar takes a shot. Blocked by Marcin Wasilewski.38:52
Foul by Michal Kadlec on Robert Lewandowski, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Eugen Polanski.38:03
Jaroslav Plasil takes a shot. Save by Przemyslaw Tyton.33:31
Unfair challenge on Tomas Sivok by Dariusz Dudka results in a free kick. Tomas Hubschman takes the free kick.32:28
Ludovic Obraniak crosses the ball, clearance made by Michal Kadlec.31:29
Unfair challenge on Jakub Blaszczykowski by Tomas Hubschman results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Rafal Murawski.29:19
Free kick awarded for a foul by Tomas Hubschman on Robert Lewandowski. Ludovic Obraniak crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing, Daniel Kolar makes a clearance.27:47
Corner taken by Jaroslav Plasil from the left by-line to the near post, Close range headed effort by Daniel Kolar goes wide of the left-hand post.26:06
The assistant referee signals for offside against Milan Baros. Indirect free kick taken by Przemyslaw Tyton.25:24
The ball is sent over by David Limbersky, clearance by Marcin Wasilewski.22:01
Jaroslav Plasil delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right channel, clearance by Damien Perquis.22:01 Booking
Booking Rafal Murawski goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.21:55
Unfair challenge on Milan Baros by Rafal Murawski results in a free kick.21:35
Marcin Wasilewski takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech.21:32
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Ludovic Obraniak from the left by-line to the near post.21:07
Sebastian Boenisch takes a shot. Save made by Petr Cech.21:01
Centre by Ludovic Obraniak.18:58
Unfair challenge on Theodor Gebre Selassie by Robert Lewandowski results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Theodor Gebre Selassie.15:18
Foul by Dariusz Dudka on Petr Jiracek, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Tomas Sivok.14:22
Effort on goal by Eugen Polanski from just inside the area clears the bar.11:47
The ball is swung over by Ludovic Obraniak, Effort from deep inside the area by Sebastian Boenisch misses to the right of the target.11:47 Booking
Booking David Limbersky goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.11:40
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jakub Blaszczykowski by David Limbersky.9:37
Effort from deep inside the area by Robert Lewandowski misses to the left of the target.7:22
Corner taken by Ludovic Obraniak from the left by-line played to the near post, Tomas Hubschman makes a clearance.7:16
The ball is sent over by Jakub Blaszczykowski, save made by Petr Cech.4:51
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jakub Blaszczykowski by Michal Kadlec. Shot comes in from Ludovic Obraniak from the free kick.4:02
Free kick awarded for a foul by Milan Baros on Damien Perquis. Przemyslaw Tyton takes the free kick.3:00
The ball is delivered by Theodor Gebre Selassie, Shot from 12 yards by Vaclav Pilar.1:29
Shot from inside the six-yard box by Dariusz Dudka goes wide right of the goal.0:47
Robert Lewandowski fouled by David Limbersky, the ref awards a free kick. Ludovic Obraniak delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing.0:00
The game kicks-off.
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