WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Through the windows of the bus that took them to Wembley, Poland's players saw English fans flashing five, sometimes all 10 fingers: one for each goal they believed Alf Ramsey's team would score.
Their confidence before that Oct. 17, 1973 match England needed to win to qualify for the 1974 World Cup was understandable: England had become world champions in that same stadium just seven years earlier.
But the fans underestimated Jan Tomaszewski.
With save after save, playing with an injured hand, Tomaszewski became "the man who stopped England."
England and Poland meet in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, when Joe Hart will be the goalkeeper under most pressure because he has been so error-prone of late. But as he pulls on his gloves and stares down the field at Poland players wanting to make his poor start to the season worse, Hart could perhaps draw inspiration from the heroics 40 years earlier of the Polish 'keeper with shoulder-length rock-star hair.
In an Associated Press interview, Tomaszeswki recounted how in 1973 the crowd yelled "animals, animals" at the Poland squad as the players filed onto the pitch in their red jerseys.
"You could not hear your own thoughts," he recalled.
Tomaszewski was so stressed he almost gifted the ball to England striker Allan Clarke after two minutes. But from that point on, he put in the performance of a lifetime. England threw everything at Tomaszewski, and got 26 corners compared to Poland's two.
"I've never played in a more one-sided game in my life," England's Norman Hunter said years later in a television interview.
With acrobatic dives and a dose of luck, Tomaszewski kept out a barrage of goal-bound shots and headers.
He recalled, in particular, a volley by Clarke from five yards (meters) out.
"I blindly threw myself to the left and felt the ball hit me and it was out. And then I saw Clarke standing there and looking at me: how was it possible? But I also saw in his eyes a professional appreciation of the adversary."
After 55 minutes of frustration, the unthinkable happened for England. Hunter missed a tackle on Grzegorz Lato, on the half-way line as he was sprinting down Poland's left wing. Lato veered inside and passed to Jan Domarski. His shot streaked under Peter Shilton.
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