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Kuba on Portugal, penalties, Hummels and sacrifice

Poland's man of and for the moment, Jakub Błaszczykowski talks Portugal and penalties, and explains how Mats Hummels came to be known as 'Wazniak'.

Kuba on Portugal, penalties, Hummels and sacrifice
Kuba on Portugal, penalties, Hummels and sacrifice ©AFP/Getty Images

EURO2016.com: What are you expecting from Portugal?

Portugal have a lot of strong individuals; of course, that's not always a good thing because football is a team sport. That team ethos is a feature Poland have and that's the basis of our strength.

We know Portugal's potential – for years now they've been a very good team. But we also have potential, we can also cause an upset, and we also have world-class players in our midst. We're not inferior.

EURO2016.com: You're the only survivor in the Poland squad from the side that beat Portugal 2-1 in 2006 in EURO qualifying. What do you remember?

We were euphoric. Portugal at that time were a very good team with amazing players. That was our first step to qualifying for EURO 2008, our first finals. That game was the breakthrough, a decisive moment. It made us believe in ourselves and, as we know, we got through our strong group as winners. It was a turning point for us.

Poland’s path to the quarter-finals
Poland’s path to the quarter-finals

EURO2016.com: Poland's penalties against Switzerland in the last 16 were textbook. Is it something you had practised?

We have been taking three or four spot kicks every training session, and that practice paid off. Before the match against Switzerland we expected such a scenario and were prepared for it.

EURO2016.com: How do you block out your emotions? It's not like you have an off switch.

Of course, anyone can talk about calmness, and it's easier said than done. I don't think negatively; I always think positively. I always try to think that I'm going to walk up, do my thing and score where I aim for. That's it.

Błaszczykowski after scoring the opener against Ukraine
Błaszczykowski after scoring the opener against Ukraine©AFP/Getty Images

When you walk up in training, the goal looks much bigger, but it's down to your mental approach. On the day we were strong, we had mental strength and it showed.

EURO2016.com: Germany defender Mats Hummels, your former Dortmund team-mate, tweeted about watching the Switzerland game wearing your Poland shirt, using the hashtag 'Wazniak'. What's that all about?

We were struggling to explain to him that he always has a lot to say, so we showed him the Smurfs and Ważniak, Brainy Smurf. So now he is Ważniak!

The gesture was very nice. I have a good relationship with Mats, we played together for many years, know each other very well and were successful together.

EURO2016.com: Everyone is talking about your 18 international goals. When you score, Poland never lose. Is it nice to be the team's talisman?

I really don't care who scores. What I care about most is that the team wins, that it gets the best possible rest. This gives me the greatest satisfaction. I will sacrifice myself, sometimes at the expense of my very presence on the pitch, if it means we can defend our goal and win.

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