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Memories of a sordid past touch upon present

Poland will be playing for their WC lives and trying to salvage national honour after a disastrous opener against Ecuador.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 13:23 IST
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When Poland take on Group A leader and historical foe Germany in Dortmund on Wednesday, the red and whites will be playing for their World Cup lives and trying to salvage national honour after a disastrous opener against Ecuador.

"The match is very, very important. If we don't get three points or even one, we can pack our bags and go home," coach Pawel Janas told a press conference in Germany.

"The match with Germany is the match of our life. It's a question of 'to be or not to be'," said the Polish coach, seeking inspiration in a time of difficulty from Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet.

Poland's and Germany's histories have often been tragically intertwined in the last 70 years. The German invasion of Poland in September 1939 was the spark that ignited World War II, a conflict in which Poland paid a high price in human life.

In a touch of historic irony, the match in Dortmund falls on the 66th anniversary of the arrival of the first trainload of prisoners - all Polish - at the Auschwitz death camp, set up by Nazi Germany in southern Poland at the start of World War II.

But allusions to old rivalries and wartime animosity stop there. "War is not football," sports journalist Przemyslaw Rudzki of mass circulation Polish tabloid Fakt said.

Fakt devoted its entire front page on Saturday to Poland's 2-0 defeat against Ecuador the previous night, using three of the many words in Polish for "shame", plus "compromising" and "losers" to tell the squad what it thought of its performance.

The story ended with the sentence - "Don't come back home."

"There's a general feeling of despair in Poland" after the defeat by Ecuador, Rudzki said.

"I'm 99 per cent sure we won't get through group A... Nobody believes in a result on Wednesday other than a massive win by Germany."

"I don't know if the Polish team is capable of shaking off what happened in the Ecuador match," he said.

Polish cap Ebi Smolarek, who plays for German side Borussia Dortmund, said the ambience in the team was 'good' after a meeting on Monday, but made a sideways admission that self-esteem was down around the level of socks whose elastic has gone.

"We have to think about how we played in the first match and we have to make ourselves believe that we can play well," he told a press conference in Germany.

"I will give more than 100 per cent and I hope all the others will, too. We have to win against Germany," Smolarek said in response to a question about what message he wanted to give to Poland's fans, who have so far confounded pundits by not behaving like the rabble-rousers German and Polish police had predicted they would.

TEAMS

Germany (probables): Lehmann, Friedrich, Metzelder, Mertesacker, Lahm, Schneider, Frings, Ballack, Schweinsteiger, Podolski, Klose.

Poland (probables): Boruc, Bak, Jop, Zewlakow, Baszczynski, Krzynowek, Jelen, Szymkowiak, Sobolewski, Smolarek, Zurawski.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 13:23 IST