GDANSK, Poland: Poland will look to their talisman Robert Lewandowski to score the goals to take them into the World Cup knockout round for the first time in more than 35 years but he will need support.
The Poland captain signed for Barcelona in the close season following eight trophy laden and record filled years at Bayern Munich, a switch he had requested for months.
“After a long period of performing in one country, change is always something cool. I benefit from it very much,” Lewandowski said while on international duty in September.
“I am (where) I wanted to be. This inner happiness translates into such an extra boost, lightness, freshness and a smile.”
It also translated into 12 goals in nine games as the 34-year-old recorded the best start in Barca’s history, being more effective than players such as Ronaldo, Romario or Samuel Eto’o.
Lewandowski, who is very likely approaching his last World Cup, wants to contribute just as much to the national side, but has demanded frontline help after under-par Poland lost 2-0 to the Netherlands in the Nations League.
“The problem was the number of players we were attacking with. This number was far too small,” he said.
“The fact that we had advantage in defence did not at all mean that we were coping and collecting balls.”
Lewandowski wants what proved to have worked effectively not so long ago during the qualifiers — a strike partner.
In World Cup qualifying Group I, Poland scored 30 goals in 10 games, finishing second behind England. In every game, the team relied on a striking duo.
Under former coach Paulo Sousa, Lewandowski was most often paired with forwards Arkadiusz Milik, Adam Buksa or Karol Swiderski — and scored eight goals in as many games.
With new manager Czeslaw Michniewicz the formation changed and, as a lone striker, Lewandowski netted twice in six games.
Although Michniewicz was open about not being entirely convinced two forwards were the solution, he gave his star player what he asked for in the next game.
With Lewandowski and Charlotte FC striker Karol Swiderski up front, Poland clinched a 1-0 away win against Wales next time out and salvaged a poor Nations League campaign, preserving their threatened League A status.
“Offensively we can be much more dangerous,” Lewandowski said with moderate optimism after he set up his attacking partner for the winning goal.
“There is a lot of room for improvement here and this is definitely something we will continue to focus on (before the World Cup).” -Reuters
(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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