BERLIN (Reuters) - Success-starved Poland will be banking on the goals of top striker Robert Lewandowski to make up for lost time when they make their first World Cup appearance in 12 years.
The Bayern Munich forward almost single-handedly fired them to Russia, scoring 16 out of their 28 goals in their 10 qualifiers to help them finish top of their group, ahead of Denmark.
The 29-year-old became the first player ever to score as many goals in a single European qualifying campaign for the World Cup.
Once an exciting football nation, Poland finished third in the 1974 and the 1982 World Cups but their last two appearances in 2002 and 2006 were nothing to write home about, with the team crashing out in the group stage.
Lewandowski, however, wants to change all that, knowing that at his age and in his current blistering form that includes 13 goals in 12 Bundesliga games, he may not get another such golden chance.
“Poland have a great team at the moment with lots of very good players,” he said. “We can play really well sometimes and we have a lot of potential but we also know there are many things we can do better.”
Fellow striker Arkadiusz Milik recently suffered a second serious knee injury in a year but is expected to be back fit for the tournament starting in June, to add even more firepower to Adam Nawalka’s team.
The Poles also caught a lucky break, being seeded in Pot 1 with several other top teams including world champions Germany, hosts Russia, Brazil and European champions Portugal, thus avoiding them in the group stage.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Clare Fallon