Anyone who was not convinced of Robert Lewandowski’s status as a bona fide world-class striker could be forgiven for admitting an error of judgement now. The Polish frontman put four goals past Real Madrid in the first leg of Borussia Dortmund’s UEFA Champions League semi-final last season. No player had ever scored four times at that stage of the competition, so it is hardly surprising that Lewandowski now features on the wish list of almost every elite European club.
This term, Lewa’s eye for goal remains as sharp as ever, having netted six times in eight Bundesliga matches so far and two in as many games in the Champions League.
Yet as impressive as those numbers are, the situation is rather different with the Polish national team. Lewandowski has been on target three times in his country’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying ties, but Poland are still in a precarious position. They currently lie in fourth place in Group H on 13 points, two behind Ukraine and Montenegro and three adrift of leaders England.
All or nothing
“Looking at the ability we have, we haven’t picked up enough points from certain games, for example the draws against Moldova and Montenegro,” Lewandowski said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “We had a lot of chances and if we’d made the most of them we’d have four more points on the board than we do now. That would put us top of the table.”
That profligacy has increased the pressure on Poland going into their final two group matches in Ukraine on Friday 11 October and in England (on Tuesday 15 October). “We still have a chance of reaching the World Cup,” Lewandowski continued. “But to do that we need to win both games, and they’re both away from home. Whether we like it or not, we have to attack and score goals.”
Poland’s results from their previous group stage meetings with Ukraine and England do not bode well, having lost 3-1 to the former, while drawing 1-1 with the Three Lions. Nevertheless, the squad’s belief in their ability to secure a ticket to Brazil 2014 remains intact. “It would be an unbelievable experience for me and a huge challenge in sporting terms,” Lewandowski said.
Taste of victory
Speculation has been mounting for months that next summer the two-time Polish player of the year will swap Dortmund for Bayern Munich, the club that beat Lewandowski and Co to the Champions League title back in May with an 89th minute winner.
“We had success within our reach, which meant we were massively disappointed at the final whistle,” the 25-year-old said, recalling the nail-biting 2-1 final defeat to Germany’s titleholders in London at Wembley stadium. “I hope I’ll be able to savour the taste of victory in the Champions League one day. Without doubt, it’s one of the biggest aims I want to achieve.”
More to come?
Before then, however, three points are needed against Ukraine in Kharkov. After co-hosting last year’s UEFA EURO 2012 with Poland, could Ukraine of all countries now block their path to the World Cup?
“Hopefully not,” Lewandowski told FIFA.com, before analysing the legacy the tournament left in his homeland: “In certain areas it has helped greatly, for example if you think of all the modern stadiums there now. On top of that, the competition contributed to football’s popularity increasing among youngsters. However, I think it’ll still take a while before we see whether or not something better will come of it all.”
Regardless of whether Poland reach Brazil 2014, the seeds that were sown at the continental showdown last year may well produce one or two future stars that can help steer the country’s next qualifying campaign.
And if the commonly-held belief that footballers only reach their peak towards the end of their 20s is true, then the footballing fraternity, and especially the Polish national team, can already start looking forward to seeing even more from Lewandowski: When the 2018 World Cup takes place in Russia, the Warsaw native will be 29 years old.