O'Neill working on a way to stop danger man Lewandowski
Ireland will not be able to stop Robert Lewandowski, Poland's coach said last night ahead of the crucial European Championship qualifier this evening.
While some squads might have wanted to downplay the impact of one player on the team, coach Adam Nawalka and defender Jakub Wawrzyniak understandably decided to add to the fear Irish supporters have about the Bayern Munich forward who has scored 14 goals in his last five games.
"I don't think there is anyone who can stop him," Nawalka said as he looked forward to a game in which Ireland need a win or a high-scoring draw to avoid the play-offs and automatically head for the European Championships and Martin O'Neill acknowledged the danger of Lewandowski.
"He won't be easy to stop but we have to try and find a way to do that," he said, placing the striker in a bracket below Messi and Ronaldo which is still a very dangerous bracket.
Nawalka was asked if Lewandowski was currently the best player in the world and while he hesitated to go that far, he was prepared to go far enough. "This question has been asked a number of times and I can confirm he is the best number nine in the world right now."
Wawrzyniak added that "if anyone has any doubts, he will confirm it tomorrow".
Poland might need to rely on Lewandowski as it was confirmed yesterday that Arek Milik has been ruled out, having picked up an injury in the draw in Scotland. Milik has been almost as important as Lewandowski to Poland. He has scored six goals in this campaign, including the first in the win against Germany last October and he has also provided six assists. "He has been exceptional for them," O'Neill said last night. "But I don't think they're short."
O'Neill will make changes from the side that beat Germany. Stephen Ward, who hasn't played a league game all season, didn't travel to Warsaw while Glenn Whelan is expected to return after suspension while Shane Long could start up front. Seamus Coleman, who turns 27 today, is also in line to return.
Management and players are relishing the opportunity, even if O'Neill acknowledged that it would be hard to play at the same physical level three days after the German game. "We have to find reserves of energy," he said but the squad, he added, were in good spirits.
"We've just beaten the world champions and if you come into this match on a downer, you shouldn't be in the game," O'Neill said.
Ireland will be confident but Poland will be boosted by nearly 60,000 supporters in the National Stadium. "The atmosphere is something you have to look forward to," O'Neill added.
Reports yesterday said O'Neill had been offered a new contract before the Germany game but Ireland's manager said that it was "news to me". He dismissed the idea that the reports, or anything else, could distract Ireland tonight.
"I don't think anything is a distraction and nothing will stop the focus on what's ahead. We have this opportunity tomorrow night, albeit a very difficult one, but one that we're looking forward to. Shane's goal has given us a chance and that is absolutely and utterly what we're thinking of and everything else will take care of itself later on."
Now Ireland simply need to take care of Lewandowski.
Sunday Indo Sport