The Polish national football team reached the knockout phase of the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 36 years on Wednesday despite being defeated in their final group game.
Poland lost 2-0 to Argentina, a scoreline that does not do justice to the dominance of the Argentinians on the pitch. The result saw Argentina top the qualifying group with six points, with Poland gettting through in second place thanks to a favorable result in the other group game, which saw Saudi Arabia lose 2-1 to Mexico.
With a 2-0 score in both matches for much of the second half, Mexico and Poland were neck and neck on points, goal difference, and goals scored, meaning Poland would qualify by the slenderest of margins due to their favorable disciplinary record. However, a late consolation goal from Saudi Arabia eventually saw Mexico miss out on qualification on goal difference.
Despite losing the game, Poland had their heroic goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny to thank. He saved a penalty taken by Argentinian superstar Leo Messi and pulled off several other saves in the first half to keep Poland in the game. Unfortunately, just after half time, Argentina struck.
They scored once more halfway through the second half.
Fortunately for Poland, Argentina eased off after scoring the second goal and were content to just retain possession.
Despite the defeat and the relatively poor performance in the match against Argentina, Poland managed to make it through to the knock-out stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1986. In the last 16, they will face current World Cup champions France, and will certainly not be the favorites to make it through to the quarter finals.
Poland’s football team is ranked 26th in the world. It has a world-class striker in Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, who seems to be in the form of his life. He has already saved two penalties in this World Cup.
They and the rest of the national team will have to hope the French have an off day, as they did against Tunisia on Wednesday losing 1-0. However, France had already qualified before the game and fielded a second-string team, so the result is unlikely to worry them.