Czech Republic won Group A and reached the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals because they learnt from their mistakes, their coach Michal Bilek said.
Petr Jiracek scored the only goal of the game as the Czechs beat co-hosts Poland to snatch top spot in their group and confine their beaten opponents and Russia to the misery of failing to reach the quarter-finals. It was a scenario that seemed barely feasible after their opening group match, a 4-1 thumping by Russia.
"We play great football, we want to play great football and we wanted to play great football against Russia as well. At the beginning [against Russia] we did," said Bilek.
"However, sometimes we forgot to defend and that's why they scored so many goals. But we learned from our mistakes and in the second and third matches we defended more responsibly and showed our quality.
"Poland are a great team but we played great football, combined well and we were in control of the ball. We always trust ourselves, we found ourselves in some diffciult situations but we always played as a team and dealt with the pressure. We knew if we lost we'd be going home."
When we lost the first match it was very difficult for us but the guys showed they have good morale and I'm very happy, we deserved to go through.
For the first half-hour against Poland it really looked as if the Czechs would be on the next plane back to Prague but they started to fight their way into the match towards the end of the first period. And after the break they were by far the better side, leading Bilek to say they deserved the win.
"We're really very satisfied because we beat a team that was playing at home. They had played two fantastic matches and were the favourites for this match. We didn't play well in the first 25 minutes, we couldn't get into the game but then we improved.
"In the second half we were the better team, we were patient, the chance came, we scored and we kept fighting. When we lost the first match it was very difficult for us but the guys showed they have good morale and I'm very happy, we deserved to go through."
Having now won the group, the Czechs will likely avoid Germany in the quarter-finals, with Portugal or Denmark their most likely opponents. And Bilek admitted he would be happy to sidestep Joachim Low's team.
"I had said I'd like to play Germany in the quarter-finals but now I think I'll take that back," he joked, referring to his previous comments when he was just hoping to snatch a final eight slot.
Bonus to be top
It was Russia's shock defeat to Greece that turned the group on its head. That result also meant the Czechs would have crashed out with anything other than a victory.
Bilek admitted it was an unexpected bonus to have finished top of the group. "Of course the result between Russia and Greece was a surprise because Russia wanted to get to the final but now they're going home.
"That's the great surprise of the group because they were the favourites after the first game and no-one could have imagined them not reaching the quarter-finals. But the Greeks showed their strength. We played well against them and they played well against Poland so now you see how difficult it is to beat Greece."
Goalkeeper Petr Cech said the final table showed that groups are not decided after the first games. "We have the most points of everyone and we deserved it," he said. "I said it before, the first games never decide anything. The Russians won the first one and they're going home."