With the victory, the Czechs finished atop Group A, and will play the runner-up of Group B in the knockout stage in Warsaw next week.
After withstanding a first-half barrage from Poland, the Czechs pushed forward in the second half looking for an opening. It came on a counterattack in the 72nd minute, when Jiracek collected a pass from Milan Baros in the box, cut right to clear past Poland’s Marcin Wasilewski and slotted the ball inside the far post.
“We had a poor start but we gradually improved, started to create chances and finally, we deserved to score,” Jiracek said.
Poland, which had to win to advance, immediately brought on two attacking players in the last 30 minutes to push for a goal, but struggled to create any serious threats.
After the final whistle, the Czech players swarmed each other on the pitch. The Poles fell to the ground, covering their faces.
“I think that probably we were too sure about winning this game. The Czechs played excellent football,” Poland coach Franciszek Smuda said. “We had some opportunities before halftime, we didn’t take advantage of them and we lost the game.”
The Czechs pulled off the win despite playing without their captain and playmaker Tomas Rosicky, who was sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury.
WARSAW, Poland — Shades of 2004.
Karagounis, making his team record-tying 120th international appearance, sent a low shot under goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev with the final touch of the first half.
The Greeks, the 2004 European champions, then did what they do best: defend.
“The moments are pure magic for all of us. This is a great night for all Greeks,” Karagounis said. “I cannot describe how I feel. It’s so great.”