When it comes to saving the Czech Republic at the European Championship, midfielder Petr Jiracek is emerging on the Czech team as the man to beat.

In the absence of injured captain Tomas Rosicky, the 26-year-old playmaker battled tirelessly in midfield and scored the decisive winner in a 1-0 victory over Poland that fired the Czech Republic to the European Championship quarterfinals for the first time since 2004 after the team won Group A with six points.

''To advance in first place is fantastic,'' Jiracek said.

The team was struggling in the first half without its usual playmaker Rosicky.