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Poland cheered by qualifying success

After Poland qualified for the finals without their own "Leo Messi", coach Zbigniew Witkowski saluted both the fans and the players who serenaded Zbigniew Boniek in victory.

Poland celebrate with their fans
Poland celebrate with their fans ©Lindabrunn

Poland coach Zbigniew Witkowski hailed the support of their fans after qualifying for their first UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship – despite the absence of their own "Leo Messi".

Having won their opening two second qualifying round Group 2 games at the end of March in Austria, Poland's decider against the hosts was postponed a fortnight until Sunday because of snow.

Needing only a draw in Lindabrunn, Poland were missing key striker Ewa Pajor but after just 31 seconds her replacement Dżesika Jaszek put them ahead and although Austria levelled with 30 minutes left, Witkowski's side held on. Their reward was a 25 June semi-final against Belgium in Nyon, Switzerland – to the delight of the supporters who had filled the coach laid on for free by Andrzej Padewski, chairman of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) women's football committee.

Witkowski told UEFA.com: "We simply deserved this. We beat women's football giants Norway 3-0, we won against Ireland 2-1 and now, despite all the obstacles, we drew with Austria which gives us this deserved ticket to the final tournament.

"I am extremely proud of these girls. Sunday's game was even, Austria had a bit more possession but we had more goalscoring opportunities. My team played without their biggest star, Ewa Pajor, and showed we are not Barcelona without Leo Messi.

"We are a machine which even without one major component can work fine. Dżesika Jaszek, who replaced Pajor, scored a very quick goal. She knew exactly what she is supposed to do, to pressure from the very beginning and she did it brilliantly."

The coach had a special word for the fans. "I would like to emphasise that the Polish fans helped us a lot. They came to Austria in a coach paid for by the Polish FA. Parents, friends and Andrzej Padewski were cheering for us all the time, waving huge Polish flags and scarves. Just amazing.

"After the final whistle, the president of the PZPN, Zbigniew Boniek, called and the girls sang our winning song for him down the phone. This shows how great a success our team have already achieved. Now we are going to Nyon to take medals from the hands of UEFA President Michel Platini!"