WARSAW, Poland, June 13: Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski just wasn´t going to let his team lose this one.
With Poland trailing 1-0 on Tuesday against bitter rival Russia, Blaszczykowski perfectly struck a left-footed drive inside the far post from the edge of the box.
The strike is perhaps the crowning moment so far in Blaszczykowski´s improbable career.
The attacking midfielder grew up with his grandmother after his father murdered his mother when Blaszczykowski was a child.
Encouraged by his uncle, former Poland captain Jerzy Brzeczek, Blaszczykowski´s football talents took him from fourth-division club KS Czestochowa in 2003 to Polish first-division champion Wisla Krakow two years later, and it´s been nothing but up since then.
In his first season with Wisla, Blaszczykowski won the Polish league title. A year later he debuted with the national team, where he quickly became a fixture on the right wing with his pace and strong runs down the right flank.
His success with the national team swiftly drew the attention of major European clubs, and in 2007 he moved to German club Borussia Dortmund. Joined a few years later at Dortmund by Poland teammates Robert Lewandowski and Lukasz Piszczek, Blaszczykowski helped power the team to two consecutive Bundesliga titles, becoming a fan favorite along the way.
Poland´s Marcin Wasilewski jumps for a header against Russia during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group A match between Poland and Russia in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo;AP
He´s also won the adoration of Polish fans and the respect of his teammates with the national team.
"He is the heart of the team and the captain as well," said Poland defender Damien Perquis. "He´s well-loved in the country, he´s a guy who had a great season with Dortmund and he´s full of confidence."
After Alan Dzagoev headed in a goal for Russia in the 37th minute to put the visitors ahead, Blaszczykowski fired up his teammates on the pitch, refusing to let them hang their heads and urging them on.
Then in the 57th, he collected a pass on the right wing, touched it once toward the middle of the pitch and leveled the score with a blistering shot.
Perquis had one word for the goal: "Magnificent."
But like a good captain should, Blaszczykowski deflected praise of his own play and directed it toward his teammates.
"The whole team left a lot on the field today," he said. "We really showed our character today."
It´s a team character that´s modeled on that of its captain.