Perquis nods Poles past Slovakia
© AFP

French-born Damien Perquis scored his first goal for Poland on Saturday as the UEFA EURO 2012 hosts beat Slovakia 1-0 in a pre-tournament friendly.

Perquis blasted a header past Slovakia and Dundee United goalkeeper Dusan Pernis in the 30th minute. The Poles were in control throughout both halves, with a string of strikes either saved by Pernis or sent wide. Slovakia had few chances to level the score, though their captain, Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik, forced Poland and Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny into a lunging save minutes before half-time.

"I've proved that I'm part of this team," said 28-year-old Sochaux defender Perquis, who like a handful of other players with foreign ties. Eligible for Polish nationality due to family roots, Perquis has said he will answer his adversaries on the pitch, where he is highly rated by team-mates, notably Szczesny who sings his praises.

Szczesny was among a string of Poland stars in action against Slovakia, with manager Franciszek Smuda also opting to play his Borussia Dortmund trio of striker Robert Lewandowski, midfielder Kuba Blaszczykowski and defender Lukasz Piszczek.

I've proved that I'm part of this team.
Damien Perquis, Poland forward

On Tuesday, when Poland beat Latvia 1-0 in a friendly in Klagenfurt, Smuda chose to rest his big names who had just wrapped up their club seasons and deployed a handful of reserves. They included back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, whose hopes for a role at EURO 2012 were dashed on Saturday when it was announced that a shoulder injury will keep him out of the squad.

With the stars absent, Hannover striker Artur Sobiech on Tuesday had marked his first appearance since 2010 with his debut international goal. But despite their back-to-back friendly wins, Poland will have their work cut out at the tournament proper, with resilient opponents Greece, the Czech Republic and Russia in their group.

Having failed to reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, and with an automatic hosts' berth at EURO 2012, Poland will have gone 968 days without a competitive match by the time they kick off the tournament, hosted with neighbouring Ukraine, on 8 June in Warsaw. Slovakia made it to the round of 16 at the last FIFA World Cup, but suffered a dip in form that saw them fail to qualify for EURO 2012.