VOLGOGRAD, Russia, June 28 (Reuters) - Poland coach Adam Nawalka said his team had needed to beat Japan in their final World Cup match on Thursday to prove they were not quitters and bring some joy to their country’s football fans after a miserable campaign in Russia.
A goal from central defender Jan Bednarek on the hour mark delivered Poland their first win at the World Cup finals since they beat Costa Rica in Hanover in 2006, another dead rubber group match for the Poles.
While Japan sneaked through to the knockout stages despite the loss, Poland were already out of contention for a place in the last 16 after defeats in their first two matches.
“After the first two games against Senegal and Colombia, our team had to deal with a lot of justified criticism so it was clear the emotional level of this game would be extremely high for the Polish team,” coach Nawalka told a news conference.
“This third match became very important to confirm that this Polish team fights until the very end and can offer a little bit of joy to the Polish people.”
Despite a disappointing campaign for a team that reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and cantered through qualifying for Russia, Nawalka said he would not immediately be considering his own position.
“I’m at the disposal of the Polish FA and I will make a detailed report about the World Cup,” he added.
“At this point this is most important and I don’t want to make any declarations now.”
Nawalka did not think the World Cup had been a total waste of time for Poland and that the experience the younger players in his squad had gained would hold them in good stead in the future.
Among those was goalscorer Bednarek, who shared his coach’s positive outlook and said the squad would return home with their “heads high” after the victory.
“It didn’t work out for us at the World Cup, but we’re finishing it on a positive note and we’re optimistic about the future,” the 22-year-old told Polish TV.
“I think for some of us it’s only the beginning, it’s our first World Cup, a new experience and we’ll go ahead, we’ll be more mature, more experienced, it will be a positive thing for us.
“We certainly started the Cup wrong, it didn’t look like we wanted it to look, and then it was too late. This is how the World Cup works, you have to win games right from the start. But it’s a lesson for us, we’ll learn our lesson.” (Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Kazan, additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, editing by Alexandra Ulmer)