By Mike Collett
LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Jan Tomaszewski, whose heroics in goal for Poland 40 years ago denied England a place in the 1974 World Cup finals, doubts his countrymen will prevent England reaching next year's finals when the two sides meet again on Tuesday.
Tomaszewski, famously dismissed as "a clown" by outspoken manager Brian Clough working as a television pundit, produced a series of saves that denied England the victory they needed to qualify for the finals in West Germany as the match ended 1-1.
Four decades on, his performance and the failure of Alf Ramsey's men to reach those finals, is still casting a shadow over the build-up to the Group H qualifier at Wembley with England needing a win to ensure direct qualification for Brazil.
If England slip up against the Poles, who are already eliminated, second-placed Ukraine (one point behind) will almost certainly leapfrog England and win the group as their final match is away to whipping boys San Marino.
The group runner-up will go into a two-legged playoff against one of the other second-placed teams in Europe for a spot in Brazil.
Tomaszewski, now 65, has spoken in depth about that night and told the Polska Times newspaper on Monday he hoped current goalkeeper Artur Boruc could emulate his feat.
"What happened that night was a genuine miracle," he recalled.
"We were playing against one of the best teams in the world at Wembley but (coach) Kazimierz Gorski was great and put the pieces of the puzzle together on the field.
"Tuesday's match looks very much like the one we played in 1973 and England must win it.
"This creates an incredible opportunity for us.
"Wembley always attracts the eyes of global football. If these young boys show off their best side and take points away from England, they will be heroes - not only for the Ukrainians, who will advance directly thanks to them.
"It will be like a nomination for an Oscar."
An analysis of the game played on Oct. 17, 1973 reveals that England had 35 goal attempts and Poland just two, but either Tomaszewski or his defenders blocked everything until Allan Clarke's 63rd minute penalty cancelled out Jan Domarski's 57th minute opener for Poland.
They then withstood a fearsome onslaught for the final half-an-hour as England tried in vain to score the one goal they needed for victory.
Boruc has already kept five clean sheets for Premier League club Southampton this season but Tomaszewski knows Poland need more than just a brilliant performance from the keeper if they are to repeat the 1973 side's heroics.
"I want this for Artur Boruc with all my heart. This would be fantastic.
"But Artur won't do it alone. He will stop the English only if he has a perfect match because he can't count on his team mates on defence. If Artur fails at least once, it will be 0-1."
"Forty years ago there were like five of us in the goal.
"I made a bunch of mistakes, but my team mates kept the ball from crossing the line. They had to be there, because that's what Mr Gorski told them to do. When I moved to the top of the box, they covered me in the goal.
"Let's not kid ourselves. Our rivals were better and should have won. This was the miracle we talked about at the start. Now there are no indications of another one.
"May God give Boruc the ability to play better than I, even though that won't give us a way of advancing.
"But I fear he will not be as effective as I was because his team mates won't have his back."
In another interview with BBC Radio, the goalkeeper predicted that the Polish team would make it hard for England, but added: "I think it's going to be 3-1 for England." (Additional reporting by Chris Borowoski in Warsaw; Editing by John O'Brien)
- Sports & Recreation
- Jan Tomaszewski
- Artur Boruc