Poland rode their luck but stood firm to open their UEFA European Under-17 Championship campaign with a 1-0 victory against Belgium.
Marcin Dorna's team qualified for the finals with a perfect elite round record but were made to work hard in the picturesque town of Lendava. Belgium, and Tuur Dierckx in particular, threatened throughout and lacked only a killer touch in front of goal. Poland, though, secured the win 15 minutes from time thanks to Mariusz Stępiński, who had found the net four times en route to Slovenia.
While it was the deftness of Pieter Gerkens and Deni Milosevic that kept Belgium's central midfield ticking over in the early stages, Dierckx was an eye-catching presence on the left flank. Milosevic warmed the palms of Poland goalkeeper Oskar Pogorzelec shortly after Sebastian Rudol had tested Lucas Pirard at the other end, but it was little surprise that Dierckx provided the first-half highlight.
Wedded to the left early on, the Club Brugge KV forward drifted inside, spun on the edge of the box and forced Pogorzelec into an athletic stop. Though Siebe Schrijvers went close from the subsequent corner, Dierckx should have had the final say in added time but somehow headed Milosevic's pinpoint cross over.
When Rudol and Adrian Cierpka went close to breaking the deadlock in the first ten minutes of the second period, it seemed Dorna's half-time team talk must have had the desired effect. It was Patrick Klinkenberg's side, however, who again created the better chances. Joren Dehond headed just wide soon after Cierpka's miss, and Dierckx was then denied by Pogorzelec after unleashing a wicked shot from the edge of the area.
In Stępiński, though, Poland could call upon a proven goalscorer. The No9 was fortunate to be given the opportunity after Dariusz Formella pounced on Pirard's lax pass out of defence, but he showed great composure to control, steady himself and finish once in sight of goal.