Poland 0 Croatia 1: Klasnic caps remarkable comeback

Given the improbability of Poland progressing, this was not a contest that gripped the imagination – until Ivan Klasnic intervened. The 28-year-old Croatia striker underwent two kidney transplants last year, his body rejecting an organ from his mother before accepting one from his father. He was warned by his doctor that he was putting his life on the line by returning to football. Last night he scored the only goal on his debut in the European Championship.

Klasnic plays with a fibreglass shield around his middle but he has scored for his club – Werder Bremen, whom he leaves this summer – and his country in a remarkable comeback. "I'm happy to play football again," he said. "This is a new football life to me. A second life. It's like a dream."

This tournament has also been like a dream for Croatia's coach, Slaven Bilic. He rightly hailed Klasnic, a committed Christian. "We all prayed for him and he had very strong faith throughout," Bilic said. "We called him but he encouraged us. It's a perfect success story."

The England manager, Fabio Capello, chose to miss this match, reasoning that with nine changes made by Croatia, who had already won the group, he would not see their first-choice side. If he had been here he would have seen that his team's World Cup opponents have strength in depth and spirit at which they can only marvel.

Without Artur Boruc, who pulled off a string of saves, Croatia would have been out of sight by half-time. After Hrvoje Vejic steered a header wide, the Celtic goalkeeper twice blocked from Klasnic. He also beat out a cross-shot from Danijel Pranjic and foiled Ivan Rakitic.

The Poles fell behind when Klasnic was sent tumbling but recovered to meet Pranjic's cut-back and sweep the ball beyond Boruc. He soon left, to an ovation, and Poland had chances. Roger Guerreiro swivelled and slid a shot wide before Vedran Runje held Marek Saganowski's header. The stand-in goalkeeper did even better to deny Tomasz Zahorski.

Poland's coach, Leo Beenhakker, was asked about his future. "Many of you get excited about it so I wish you a good time," the 65-year-old Dutchman said. He was keener to talk about Croatia. "They are the outsider No 1," he said. "They are very dangerous." Even their second XI.

Poland (4-2-3-1): Boruc (Celtic); Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Dudka (Wisla Krakow), Zewlakow (Olympiakos), Wawrzyniak (Legia Warsaw); Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk), Murawski (Lech Poznan); Lobodzinski (Wilsaw Krakow), Guerreiro (Legia Warsaw), Krzynowek (Wolfsburg); Saganowski (Southampton). Substitutes used: Kokoszka (Wisla Krakow) for Lewandowski, 46; Smolarek (Racing Santander) for Lobodzinski, 55; Zahorski (Gornik Zaberze) for Saganowski, 68.

Croatia (4-4-2): Runje (Lens); Simic (Milan), Vejic (Tom Tomsk), Knezevic (Livorno), Pranjic (Heerenveen); Leko (Monaco), Pokrivac (Monaco), Vukojevic (Dynamo Zagreb), Rakitic (Schalke); Petric (Borussia Dortmund), Klasnic (Werder Bremen). Substitutes used: Corluka (Manchester City) for Knezevic, 27; Kalinic (Hajduk Split) for Klasnic, 75; Kranjcar (Portsmouth) for Petric, 75.

Referee: K Vassaras (Greece).

Booked: Poland Lewandowski, Zahorski; Croatia Vejic, Vukojevic.

Man of the match: Boruc.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments