WARSAW, May 23 (Reuters) - Former Poland soccer coach Kazimierz Gorski, who led the country to a third-place finish at the 1974 World Cup and Olympic gold, has died at the age of 85, Polish media reported on Tuesday.
Born in Lviv, now in Ukraine, Gorski coached the national team from 1970 to 1976, overseeing the golden era of Polish football that produced players like Kazimierz Dejna, Grzegorz Lato, Robert Gadocha and Wlodzimierz Lubanski.
'I don't think I am offending anyone by saying that he was the Pope of Polish football,' said former goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, whose heroic saves against England at Wembley took Gorski's team to the 1974 World Cup.
'I can only feel for those who did not happen on someone like Kazimierz Gorski in life. He was a second father to me. For what we achieved with him, he will live in my heart forever,' Tomaszewski told Reuters.
'Gorski's Eagles', as Poles call the 1974 team, ushered in a new era for football in the then communist state, mixing robust defence with a fast, flowing counter-attacking style.
After Gorski left the national team in 1976 his blueprint took Poland to three further World Cup finals, including third place in 1982 for a side led by Juventus striker Zbigniew Boniek.
'We have lost one of the few Poles today who are capable of uniting the country,' Boniek told the TVN 24 news channel. 'He did so much for Polish football, for the whole of our society.'
Gorski famously motivated his players with simple, homespun philosophies reminiscent of esteemed Liverpool manager Bill Shankly.
'Soccer is a game where the ball is round and there are two goals,' he told one interviewer. 'As long as the ball is in play there's always a chance.'
After 1976, he went on to coach Panathinaikos and Olympiakos in Greece, before returning to manage Legia Warsaw, where he had started his career as a player. After the end of communism in 1989, he took charge of Poland's football association and was an honorary president until his death.
'What is a general without his army,' the silver-haired Gorski said on being presented with one of Poland's highest civil honours in the late 1990s. 'Without that army, without such fantastic players, I would not be here.'