Robert Lewandoski scored his first ever goal at a World Cup to seal the victory for Poland over Saudi Arabia, ensuring that his side have a chance of progressing through to the last 16. Despite scoring 76 goals in 135 games for Poland before this match, the captain had suprisingly never scored at the World Cup before. The Barcelona striker’s emotions were clear to see as he broke down in tears during his jubilant celebrations with his teammates. Saudi Arabia midfielder Abdulellah Al Malki took a heavy touch on the edge of his own box and Lewandoski pounced, stealing the ball and slotting past the goalkeeper in the 82nd minute to make it two goals to nil for Poland and ensure they picked up their first victory of the tournament. Lewandoski’s side are now unbeaten in their first two World Cup games for the first time since 1986.Embed from Getty Images
The former Bayern Munich striker went from villain to hero, following his penalty miss against Mexico late on to scoring the winner against Saudi Arabia. Lewandoski was full of emotion after the game, he said, “I’m aware that this may be my last World Cup,” Lewandowski said afterwards. “Already during the anthem, singing the national anthem, I felt the emotions inside me. I wanted not only to be remembered for being at the World Cup, but for scoring goals there too. I always fought hard for a goal at the World Cup and today, I managed it.”
Poland now sit on top of the group with four points from their first two matches, following a draw against Mexico in their first game. Czesław Michniewicz’s side are one point above both Argentina and Saudi Arabia going into their last game against Lionel Messi’s side. If Poland can beat Argentina in their final game then they will progress into the next round as group winners on seven points, but they could just as easily be knocked out if they don’t win and Saudi Arabia beat Mexico. Poland have not made the knockout stages of the World Cup since 1982 and can make history against Argentina, but it won’t be easy against the South American side, spearheaded by Messi in his final World Cup. Even if Poland do not progress, they have already surpassed their points tally from their last two tournaments in 2018 and 2006, where they could only manage four points from their three matches.
Piotr Zieliński opened the scoring for Poland after 39 minutes, getting his countries first goal of the tournament. Matty Cash was played in down the right hand side by Przemysław Frankowski and played an excellent low cross along the box to Lewandoski, who went round the keeper and had the presence of mind to not shoot and pick out Zieliński in the box, who was able to just fire past Mohammed Alowais in the Saudi net. The Napoli midfielder scored his first ever World Cup goal and is having an excellent season so far, scoring six goals and picking up seven assists in 21 games in all competitions for the Seria A side.Embed from Getty Images
Poland conceded a penalty just before half time, as the referee was advised to go to the pitch side monitor and review a challenge by Krystian Bielik on Saleh Alshehri in the box and eventually decided to change his decision and point to the spot. Salem Aldawsari stepped up to take the penalty, to try and equalise but Wojciech Szczęsny came to the rescue for his side. The Juventus goalkeeper made a great save low to his right to keep the penalty out and then the rebound came straight out to Mohammed Alburayk, but again Szczęsny provided the heroics, tipping the shot destined for the top corner over the bar with his fingertips. The former Arsenal goalkeeper has an excellent penalty saving record throughout his career, saving 25 of the 86 penalties he has saved. Szczęsny was excellent throughout the match, turning up when his side needed him most, making multiple saves as Saudi Arabia had five shots on target. The former Gunner has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the tournament so far, saving all nine of the shots he has faced, helping Poland to two consecutive clean sheets.Embed from Getty Images
Saudi Arabia dominated posession, with 64 per cent of the ball and should have scored with the amount of chances that they created. However, Poland were very dangerous on the counter attack and went close a number of times before Lewandoski’s goal secured all three points. Arkadiusz Milik struck the crossbar after 64 minutes with a free header from inside the box. Lewandoski played Frankowski in behind the right back and the winger crossed for Milik, who should have really scored with his goal record. Although Milik did not score, his presence up front with Lewandoski made Poland a lot more dangerous when they attacked. The Juventus striker did not start against Mexico, with Zieliński starting out of position up front; the change for Milik up top and Zieliński in behind the strikers made Poland’s attacks a lot more fluid and threatening.
Minutes after Milik had struck the crossbar, Lewandoski rattled the post as Michniewicz’s side pushed for a two goal cushion. The former Bayern Munich striker connected with a cross just infront of the goalkeeper, but the ball hit the inside of the post and bounced straight back to the defender who cleared the ball. It seemed like it was not going to be the striker’s day, until Al Malki provided him with a present to finally score that goal he had been chasing his whole career and what a time to do it when his country needed it most.
Hervé Renard’s side are ranked 51 in the world, 30 places lower than Poland and put up a brilliant fight and if they had scored the penalty could have easily got a result. Saudi Arabia have been the suprise of the tournament so far, beating Argentina in probably the biggest World Cup upset of all time and pushing Poland all the way.