Super Lewandowski, caretaker of Polish hopes
Poland has produced transcendent soccer talents in the past—Zbigniew Boniek, Wladyslaw Zmuda, Robert Gadocha, Grzegorz Lato, and any number of keepers. But their current standard bearer is in a class by himself. Robert Lewandowski, the FIFA Best Player 2020 and 2021, Ballon d’Or Striker of the Year 2021, UEFA Men’s Player of the Year 2021, European Golden Shoe 2020-21, and 2021-22, and newly minted Barcelona center forward (scoring nine goals in nine games so far), has been on a roll for the better part of at least the past seven years.
The 34-year-old Lewandowski moved from Poland to Germany and joined Borussia Dortmund in 2010 and in four years he had 131 appearances and scored 74 goals—and then he went on a tear. He joined Bayern Munich in 2014 and over a seven-year spell, he played 253 games and scored 238 goals for his club. Over his entire senior career for club(s) and country he has played 678 games and scored 479 goals a 0.71 goals per game average, which translates into 27 goals per year.
Lewandowski has won 10 Bundesliga titles, 4 DFB-Pokal titles, and one each UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup. He has won the Polish Player of the Year award for the past ten years in a row. In UEFA qualifiers for Qatar, he scored nine goals. The striker is his country’s most capped player, its top scorer, and its current captain. He is a notoriously prolific goal scorer in streaks who has broken many a league scoring record.
Poland is in World Cup 2022 Group C together with Argentina, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. If the Poles can draw with Mexico and Argentina and defeat the Saudis, they will progress to the Round of 16. This is not an unreasonable feat to accomplish given Mexico’s depleted ranks and poor form and the Saudi’s level. Only Argentina, who they meet last, are a challenge for the Poles who open their campaign against the Mexicans. A win in that first match would set the table for Lewandowski’s hopes and maybe help him see his national team accomplish what they were unable to do in 2018 in Russia.
The broad-shouldered, 6-foot-one-inch striker is a formidable presence in opposition penalty areas and his mid-range shot is deadly. Given the physical nature of his game, the three teams in his group would not seem to offer many defenders who could muscle him out of his preferred locations on the turf. If his teammates can get him the ball, he could wreak havoc on opposition defenses. So, keeping tight on defense and feeding Lewandowski often would seem like the Poles’ ticket.
The Polish superstar is the type of physical specimen that just might be around for the 2026 World Cup at 38 years of age, but he is at his peak now, and gifting his team a Round of 16 berth would entail producing his nation’s best performance at the cup for 36 years. Don’t be surprised if he helps Poland do just that.
Photo: Robert Lewandowski – Shutterstock ID: 1564307716, by MaciejGillert