Poland’s Szczesny backs Lewandowski to fire at World Cup
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny believes Robert Lewandowski will break his World Cup duck in Qatar as his country aims to reach the knockout phase for the first time since 1986.
Lewandowski is Poland’s record scorer with 76 goals in 134 games but the Barcelona star failed to find the net four years ago in Russia as the Poles exited in the group stage.
The 34-year-old has struck 25 times across the last two World Cup qualifying campaigns but has yet to open his account at the finals.
“I think it’s definitely important for him (to score),” Szczesny told reporters Monday on the eve of Poland’s opening game against Mexico.
“He’s very motivated before the World Cup. No one doubts that Robert is one of the best players in the world right now.”
After eight record-breaking seasons at Bayern Munich, Lewandowski has been just as prolific in his first season with Barcelona — hitting 18 goals in 19 appearances.
“He would definitely like to see his ambitions come true, not only at the club level but for his national team. This is a very important tournament.
“I do believe we’ll add Robert Lewandowski to the great names of Polish football with what he does in Qatar.”
Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is at his fifth World Cup and will be tasked with stopping not only Lewandowski but also Lionel Messi and a fancied Argentina in Group C.
He underlined the importance of a good start for Mexico, who have fallen at the last 16 at the past seven World Cups.
“No opponent will be easy, we’re not thinking about Argentina or Saudi Arabia. We know it’s a short tournament and starting with three points is essential,” said the 37-year-old Ochoa.
“We know what we’re going up against (in Lewandowski). We need to focus on not giving him any chances. He has the ability to turn the game on its head.
“It will be a big challenge to face a player like him. We’ll also make sure they have concerns about our very dangerous players, and I’m sure we’ll hurt them when we attack them.”
Poland has failed to get past the group phase in their past three World Cup appearances, the last of which saw Szczesny punished for a mistake in the first match against Senegal.
The Juventus goalkeeper has suffered a series of mishaps at past major tournaments, including being sent off in the Euro 2012 opener when Poland was co-host.
Szczesny played no further part at Euro 2016 after an injury in the first group game. He also conceded an own goal as Poland kicked off their Euro 2020 campaign with a loss to Slovakia.
“I think each tournament has its own history,” said the 32-year-old Szczesny, who confirmed this will be his last World Cup.
“I’m not thinking about tomorrow’s game going back to the previous tournaments. I’m very enthusiastic and looking forward to the first game.”