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Smolarek lives up to the family name

Euzebiusz Smolarek is hoping he can emulate the achievements of his hero – his father Włodzimierz – when Poland make their UEFA European Championship debut.

Euzebiusz Smolarek is a hero to Poland fans, just like his father
Euzebiusz Smolarek is a hero to Poland fans, just like his father ©Getty Images

Father's inspiration
History is very important to the 27-year-old forward, whose nine qualifying goals was more than any other player at these finals, and not just because he was named after Eusébio. Smolarek has a personal link to his nation's past glories as his father Włodzimierz was one of Poland's finest players in recent times, winning 60 caps and earning 1982 FIFA World Cup bronze. "I think my father has been very important, for all he did for Polish football," Smolarek told euro2008.com. "Times were hard back then but in 1982 he helped Poland finish third at the World Cup. That was very special and he played a lot of matches for the national team. He's always been my hero."

Germany encounter
While Smolarek senior played at two World Cups and Poland have qualified for that tournament seven times altogether, they never before have made the UEFA European Championship finals. However, that is not enough for Eusebiusz as he considers Sunday's Group B opener against Germany in Klagenfurt. "Poland have a great history in the World Cup and it's nice to be playing in the UEFA European Championship for the first time," he said. "But we didn't just come here to play three matches, we want to advance. Of course the first game against Germany will be important. It will be a great match for all of us, for our supporters, and for the Polish nation too. That's what it's all about and we'll see how far we'll get in this tournament."

World Cup heartbreak
The opening game brings back memories of when these nations met at the World Cup in Germany two years ago, when an injury-time Oliver Neuville goal gave the hosts a 1-0 win at ended Poland's hopes with one match remaining. Smolarek is also one of several squad members with a club link to Germany, having played for BV Borussia Dortmund between January 2005 and summer 2007 before joining Real Racing Club Santander. "For me the Germany game is not like a derby because I now play in Spain," Smolarek said. "But it will be a special match for sure, because two years ago at the World Cup we lost to Germany in the last minute. That's history and we want to win this match."

Confidence boost
Smolarek admits that Germany are favourites but he says the Poland squad have drawn confidence from qualifying and in particular the win against Portugal in October 2006 that truly launched their campaign. His goals were Poland's first versus Portugal in 20 years, the previous one having been scored by his father . "That match against Portugal really stands out for me," Smolarek said. "We won and I scored two goals. For me, for our team and for the whole of Poland, this was an important match. We showed that we can win such matches and shouldn't be afraid. We showed that we can play good football. We've won against Portugal. They had a good team but we showed that we can play good football."

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