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Czech hero Jiráček takes the plaudits

Match-winning midfielder Petr Jiráček was the Castrol EDGE Index top performer as his goal secured the Czech Republic victory against Poland and top spot in Group A.

Petr Jiráček (left) strides away from Poland's Dariusz Dudka
Petr Jiráček (left) strides away from Poland's Dariusz Dudka ©AFP/Getty Images

Petr Jiráček was the Czech Republic hero as his second-half strike took the wind from Poland's sails and earned his side a 1-0 win that ensured they qualified top of UEFA EURO 2012 Group A. 

It was the energetic right-winger's second goal in as many games, a feat his team-mate and left-sided counterpart Václav Pilař achieved on matchday two, and the strike meant Jiráček topped the Castrol EDGE Index for the contest against the co-hosts with a rating of 9.09.

It was the 26-year-old's only shot in the match, but ultimately one opportunity was all the VfL Wolfsburg man needed. He barely put a foot wrong elsewhere, making all three of his solo runs and deliveries into key areas in the attacking third and linking up well with the overlapping Theodore Gebre Selassie.

The Czechs carved out few other clear-cut chances as they spent long periods soaking up pressure. Unsurprisingly, then, that the two stand-out members of the Czech rearguard, Petr Čech and Michal Kadlec, occupy positions two and three respectively. The former made four saves, while the latter was the third best player on the pitch in terms of ball recovery and made a match-winning clearance off the line with seconds left.

Castrol EDGE Index: Czech Republic v Poland
1. Petr Jiráček (CZE) 9.09
2. Petr Čech (CZE) 8.99
3. Michal Kadlec (CZE) 8.67
4. Robert Lewandowski (POL) 8.63
5. Przemysław Tytoń (POL) 8.36

Key facts
5 – The Czech Republic are only the second side to top a group at a UEFA European Championship despite conceding five goals (after Spain at UEFA EURO 2000).

2 – This is the second time the Czechs have qualified from a EURO group stage with a negative goal difference (something they also did in 1996, when they reached the final).

29 – Their first shot against Poland did not come until the 29th minute, the longest a team has had to wait in a UEFA EURO 2012 match.

2 – Poland have become only the second host nation to fail to win a group fixture at a EURO, following Austria in 2008.

25 – Poland's failure to penetrate the attacking third cost them dear: they only managed the feat 25 times, their lowest total of the tournament, while the Czechs did so on 41 occasions.

Player view
Petr Jiráček: "It's a great feeling, of course, but I'm glad we handled the game as a team. For the goal I ran into the space and knew that if I shot across the goalkeeper he couldn't reach it."