Part I: From Dubrovnik to Bucharest: This is the year of Eastern European soccer

The best soccer is being played east of the Danube. Romania, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic have all qualified for Euro 2008 and they have done so in style topping their groups.
POLAND
A group of veterans put Poland through. Jerzy Dudek, Wojciech Kowalewski, Jacek Bak, Jacek Kryznowek, Michal Zewlakow, Grzegorz Rasiak, and Maciej Zurawski got the call by Leo Beenhakker and were instrumental in getting the job done.
Poland found goalscorers at opportune moments whether it was Radoslaw Matusiak in the early stages, or Jacek Krzynowek scoring a huge equalizer in the Portugal return match, before Ebi Smolarek capped their campaign by reeling off the last five goals which put Poland into the Euro finals. Poland was helped immensely by the injury free Krzynowek who put behind his poor performance in World Cup 2006.
Ebi Smolarek was the toast of the Polish squad with his nine goals. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder recently transfered to Racing Santander, scored a brace against Belgium leading them to their first Euro final in their tenth attempt. Smolarek also send Portugal to their first defeat in the qualifiers by scoring another brace. They topped Group A which saw tough Serbian and Finnish opposition comprising players plying their trade in the bigger European leagues. Serbia had a slim chance of securing the second spot needing a win against Poland yesterday but they managed a draw after Maciej Zurawski and Radoslaw Matusiak put their team ahead ending their hopes.
It was less than an ideal start as Poland lost to Finland and drew with Serbia. It was only when manager Leo Beenhakker started Ebi Smolarek and Grzegorz Rasiak that Poland’s attack got off to a winning start. They won against Kazakhstan with Smolarek scoring the winning goal. Beenhakker also rotated his goalie corp as he had the luxury of having Artur Boruc, Lukacz Fabianski, Tomas Kuszczak, and Jerzy Dudek who are or have played in the top English and Scottish clubs.
Poland under Leo Beenhakker look like they have shaken off their World Cup hangover and will be a tough team to beat when the group stages begin in June 2008.
Poland’s march to the Euro 2008 video >>
Classic moment: Radoslaw Matusiak hustling past Daniel Van Buyten of Belgium to score a goal.

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