Friday 23 February 2018

Poland pin hopes on in-form Robert Lewandowski for Euro 2016 decider

Poland defender Jakub Wawryzniak believes striker Robert Lewandowski, pictured, will prove himself the best in the world
Poland defender Jakub Wawryzniak believes striker Robert Lewandowski, pictured, will prove himself the best in the world

Poland defender Jakub Wawryzniak has backed Robert Lewandowski to prove he is the best striker in the world by ruining the Republic of Ireland's dream of automatic qualification for Euro 2016.

The 27-year-old Bayern Munich striker goes into Sunday night's final Group D qualifier at the Narodowy Stadium in Warsaw having scored a staggering 14 goals in his last four and a half games for club and country.

The last of those came in Thursday's 2-2 draw in Scotland, in which he claimed both Polish goals, prompting Scotland manager Gordon Strachan to suggest he is currently the hottest marksman in world football.

Asked for his own assessment at his pre-match press conference on Saturday evening, Poland boss Adam Nawalka said: "I do have to say that this question was asked a number of times quite recently and I do have to confirm that for the time being, Robert Lewandowski is the best number nine in the world."

Before the press conference could continue, Wawryzniak, sitting to the coach's right, added: "And should anyone have doubts, we really do believe that tomorrow, Robert Lewandowski will confirm exactly that."

Lewandowski's stock has risen sharply since his move to Bayern from Borussia Dortmund last year and worryingly for defenders, Nawalka believes there is still more to come.

He said: "Robert Lewandowski is developing all the time, he makes progress continuously and I do not think there is anyone that could stop him."

Lewandowski is likely to prove key to Poland's hopes of fending off Ireland as the pair battle it out for automatic qualification with Martin O'Neill's men having rekindled their own hopes with their shock 1-0 victory over world champions Germany on Thursday evening.

Victory for either side would send them to France next summer, while a 0-0 draw would put the Poles through and a high-scoring one would do the same for the Irish once the head-to-head record is taken into account.

Nawalka said: "I have to say that the result (against Germany) was a big surprise for us, but both teams represent a really high level of football and actually in this group, being a very difficult one, every result is possible.

"The German team had maybe a bigger ball possession and had more chances, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the number of goals scored and in this aspect, the Irish team was better, which is why we know tomorrow's game will be difficult for us.

"But we are prepared for that and we will do our job."

Nawalka will be without injured duo Maciej Rybus and Arkadiusz Milik with Wawryzniak and striker Artur Sobiech likely to get the nod instead.

However, Poland, who like Ireland are already guaranteed a play-off place at worst, are determined not to leave anything to chance.

Wawryzniak said: "We are of course calm, we are of course sure that we will give our best during tomorrow's game, but our team has proven that we have an identity, we can count on every single player in our team, which is why we will continue to do that.

"I am pretty sure that tomorrow evening, we will meet again here and be happy due to our result."

Press Association

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