- FIFA chats with Robert Lewandowski ahead of the Senegal game
- He weighs in on Poland's expectations and his Golden Boot hopes
- The 30-year-old also discusses feeling fresh and getting double-marked
By Piotr Kozminski with Poland
At the age of 30, one of the greatest strikers of his generation finally gets his first shot at the FIFA World Cup™. Robert Lewandowski knows he has the weight of a football-impassioned nation on his shoulders, but he’s relishing the challenge. FIFA.com caught up with the Bayern Munich man to discuss the expectations of Poland, their first opponents Senegal, whether he’ll get heavily marked, his hopes of emulating Grzegorz Lato and winning the adidas Golden Boot and skipping school to watch Korea/Japan 2002.
FIFA: You must be aware of the fact that in Poland fans expect a lot, especially from you. How do you feel being a leader and captain?
Robert Lewandowski: That is true, the expectations are high, but they expect it not only from me but from the whole team. We know that Poland is a nation that always believes, always keeps fingers crossed for the players, but at the same time expects a lot. We are prepared for that. Pressure? There has always been pressure and will be forever, but we know how to deal with that, we put pressure aside.
You were the leading marksman in European qualifying with 16 goals. What do you expect from yourself at Russia 2018?
I want to play really good football here. I want to help my team in the best possible way – with my individual efforts and shots. As a team, we want to progress here and I know I have a task to fulfill.
How can Poland’s UEFA EURO 2016 experience, where you reached the quarter-finals, help you in Russia?
The World Cup is of course the most important football tournament, one step higher than the EURO, but those finals were really precious experience for us as we got to know the atmosphere of a big tournament. We have been ‘inside’ it, we know what it’s like – that should help us. But of course, the most important place is the pitch. If we want to achieve something here, we must play even better than we did in France.
Is there any difference between your personal preparations and feelings ahead of EURO 2016 and Russia 2018?
I do think my last season was quite different from the one before the 2016 finals. I played less games [in 2017/18], which means I’m less tired. I hope this freshness will show during the World Cup. Furthermore, this time the preparations have been ‘personalised’, catered to what an individual player needs.
Poland start the World Cup against Senegal. What are their strong points?
They are very good on counter-attacks – when they attack, they do it really quickly. They don’t waste time when they have the ball. They try to get forward and fire off shots as quickly as possible. They are a really dangerous team.
You scored three goals in Poland’s last two friendlies, against Chile and Lithuania. Does this mean Lewandowski is on fire?
We will see. Friendlies aren’t too important. The important moment is coming now. I want my hunger for goals to be even bigger and bigger. And of course I hope more goals will come on the biggest stage – the World Cup.
A Pole has already won the Golden Boot at the World Cup – Grzegorz Lato in 1974. Is it one of your dreams to do the same?
I try to be realistic here. We know, as a team – and we are preparing ourselves for this – that I will be tightly marked by defenders, like I was at France 2016. So I am not sure how many good opportunities I will have. But when I am doubled up on, fouled etc., it frees up space for my team-mates and we’d like to take advantage of this. If another player scores for us, that’s great. It doesn’t have to be me.
And what are your World Cup memories as a fan?
My first memories are from the World Cup in 1998 – Brazil, France, such great teams. I was a kid and really loved that tournament. Then of course, 2002, with Poland participating. I had to come back from school earlier than usual – I skipped the two last lessons – as the games, due to time difference, were very early in Poland. I kept my fingers crossed for Poland and was happy that Poland participated in such a wonderful event. Yes, I still remember it very well. And now I am here.