NICE, France, June 13: Poland showed it's more than just one man.
In a strong team performance on Sunday, Poland beat Northern Ireland 1-0 to secure its first ever win in the European Championships.
With Poland forward Robert Lewandowski, qualifying's top scorer, marked out of large stretches of the game, there was space for others to make the mark. One was attacking midfielder Arkadiusz Milik, who scored the decisive goal with a low shot in the 51st minute.
It was no more than Poland deserved. "The team has realized that we won't win as individuals," midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak said through a translator.
Krychowiak even went so far as to say that the team was a dark horse contender to win the tournament. It next faces Germany on Thursday.
"This team is very experienced and we know that this was just only the first match," he said. "In order to win the tournament, we cannot be satisfied with just three points tonight. We know the next match will be difficult."
Poland has twice finished third at the World Cup but has had struggled at its previous two appearances at the European Championship, notably in 2012 when as co-host it came last in its group.
Northern Ireland showed a lot of defensive endeavor but failed to register a single shot on target in its first ever European Championship match. A wayward overhead kick from Kyle Lafferty in the 76th was the closest Northern Ireland came to equalizing. Defeat ended the team's 12-game unbeaten run.
The team will probably have to get something out of its next match against Ukraine on Thursday to have any chance of making it into the round of 16.
Poland is, however, likely to face UEFA sanctions after a firecracker was thrown onto the pitch from a Polish fan sector.