Poland was eliminated from the World Cup on Thursday, despite managing its first win of the tournament. Jan Bednarek scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Japan that wasn’t enough to lift an otherwise hapless Poland team off the bottom of Group H.
Although Poland is going home, it did manage to exit the tournament with a win. However, there was also a strange sideline incident late in the match involving manager Adam Nawalka, that while not exactly illegal, would certainly seem to go against the spirit of the game.
At one point toward the end of the match, Nawalka had summoned substitute Jakub Blaszcyskowski to the sidelines and was awaiting a break in play so that he could sub the midfielder on, apparently for Kamil Grosicki. The break in play never came, and Nawalka wasn’t able to make the substitution.
So how do we know that Grosicki was the player he intended to bring off for Blaszcyskowski? Because at one point Nawalka grabbed the back of his leg as if to suggest an injury and then gestured to Grosicki. As if on cue, Grosicki went to ground clutching the back of his leg and signaling to the referee.
Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe was unmoved, however, and Nawalka was still unable to make his substitution, despite the theatrical ruse. In the end, it didn’t really matter.
Although it lost the match and wound up tied on points with Senegal, Japan still managed to squeak through to the next round on an obscure rule that takes account for the number of red and yellow cards a team has received. Poland meanwhile, was left to rue what could have been.
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