Euro 2012

Poles overcome homeboys Klose and Podolski's gloom

Poles who get reflected glory from seeing Germany's Polish-born Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski in action overcame the gloom of their idols' Euro 2012 exit, saying Italy deserved their gutsy 2-1 semi-final win.

With co-hosts Poland having failed to advance from the group stage at the European championship, some fans transferred their loyalty to the next best thing to a home team.

Klose and Podolski shirts sported by Polish fans were much in evidence at the 50,000-strong fanzone crowd in the capital Warsaw, where Germany fell to Italy in the National Stadium across the River Vistula.

"Klose's my favorite player, because he scores loads of goals. That's why I'm supporting Germany," nine-year-old Kuba Ramotowski told AFP, even though the Lazio striker failed to shine against Italy.

"And he's Polish, of course," added his father Marcin, 36, with a grin.

Klose and Podolski were both born in the southern Polish region of Silesia and emigrated to neighbouring Germany as youngsters.

Podolski turned 27 on June 4, the day Germany arrived at their Euro 2012 base in the northern Polish city of Gdansk, and at their first training session around 8,000 fans turned out to sing "Happy Birthday" to him in Polish.

Klose, now 34, made his debut with Die Mannschaft in 2001, while Podolski earned his first cap in 2004.

In past matches Polish viewers have enjoyed spotting Klose mouthing Polish expletives after missed shots.

Adding an extra edge is the fact that Podolski is the Poland player-that-got-away.

At 18 he contacted the Polish football association, the PZPN, to enquire about donning the Poland shirt but got the brush-off.

Klose was never tempted by Poland, but to avoid losing foreign-based talent in the future, the PZPN set up a unit to scout the world's huge Polish diaspora, which recruited German-raised Sebastian Boenisch and Eugen Polanski for the Poland squad ahead of Euro 2012.

The relationship is a love-hate one, however, and not just because of the historical antipathy between Poland and Germany.

Klose and Podolski turned Polish fans into nervous wrecks during the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008, when twists of fate drew Germany and Poland together.

But at the 2010 World Cup, for which Poland failed to qualify, Poles shared a slice of the pride when Germany came third.

Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, whom Podolski is poised to join at English side Arsenal from Germany's Cologne, rates him highly.

"He's got a fantastic left foot and I hope he's going to score a lot of goals for us. He's a physical player, he's not one of those German players whose game is based only on technique," Szczesny said earlier in Euro 2012.

"And he's Polish. He's been texting me in Polish," he added.

For some Poles, however, supporting Germany is not about the duo.

"It's simply a matter of liking good football," said thirtysomething Michal Saknowski, who said he would be backing Italy against Spain in Sunday's final.

Michal Dadela, 20, said he'd been rooting for Italy against Germany and had been blown away by the brace of goals from Mario Balotelli.

"They were really great. And Balotelli, well, he was just amazing. Mind you, I'll be supporting Spain in the final," he said.

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