March 29, 2023
Robert Lewandowski celebrating a goal with his Poland National Team
Robert Lewandowski’s goalscoring prowess is no secret. Whenever Barcelona’s 34-year-old star striker steps on to the pitch, opposition defences would do well to remember that he possesses an insatiable hunger to keep finding the back of the net.

Poland’s captain netted another nine goals during qualifying for the Qatar 2022, including a vital strike in their play-off match against Sweden. Yet Lewandowski does not have a single goal to his name at a FIFA World Cup after his side exited Russia 2018 after the group stage – a situation he is keen not to repeat as he and his team-mates look to improve on their performance from four years ago. As the World Cup draws ever closer, FIFA sat down with Lewandowski to discuss Poland’s track record and much more.

-Robert, you scored 25 goals in 19 games across Poland’s last two World Cup qualifying campaigns, including nine goals in as many matches on the road to Qatar. Surely, even for you, those are crazy numbers?

Robert Lewandowski: I’m definitely pleased to have scored so many goals in qualifying, but particularly because it meant we made it to the World Cup. I know that every one of my goals can help my team to victory, so I’m really happy and proud to have achieved such impressive numbers.

How was the last qualifying campaign for you, particularly in terms of your goals and performances?

We scored plenty of goals in our qualifiers, and I even scored in the first game to earn us a point. The next few matches weren’t easy. It’s clear that playing style means nothing in qualifying – all that matters is that you win. I always go out on to the pitch looking to give everything and try and score a goal or create a chance, because I know my skills can make an impact. Every time we win, whether I’ve scored or not, I always think that we’ve achieved the most important thing of all. And if I score along the way, well, that’s perfect.

What are your memories of the crucial play-off match against Sweden?

It was such a tough game. We knew Sweden had already played a match in the play-offs. Although we went into the game without that kind of experience, we knew that we’d be strong and full of energy at home in front of the Polish fans. We played a good game in tactical terms. The Swedes had a few opportunities in the first half, but we knew that if we could ride those out and stay patient, our moment would come too. And then, in one of those perfect moments, we scored – and we could have added two or three more. Nevertheless, we’re pleased to have made it to this World Cup, as it showed us that we have potential. The question now is whether we will be able to achieve that potential.

Czeslaw Michniewicz only took on the coaching role shortly before that World Cup play-off. What has he brought to the team since then?

It wasn’t an easy moment for him. He took charge of the team just before that final game and didn’t have much training time with us. But he came in and showed us who he is as a person. His personality was clear from day one. He has the ability to get through to us. His approach helps build relationships between individual players, and that definitely helped us to get to this World Cup.

The consistency of your performances is impressive. Do you think that could put extra pressure on you?

Yes, of course. I’m aware that the expectations grow every time I succeed and with every goal I score. No matter who we’re playing and what challenges we face out on the pitch, everyone expects me to score – and that’s not always possible. I know I should always have that hunger for goals. Many people look at my stats and assume that if I scored then I played well, and if I didn’t then I played badly, but I’m well aware that that’s not always the case. It doesn’t worry me.

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Do you think that Poland’s success correlates with your performance as an individual, and is that a burden for you?

Playing for the Polish national team definitely carries huge responsibility. The pressure that comes with the expectations of our fans and the nation as a whole is massive and I’m well aware of it. I have to and want to feel motivated to show them what I can do on the football pitch. Although that’s not always easy, I don’t want to complain about it. I must always find a solution and try to give my best.

You played in your homeland before moving on to Europe’s biggest leagues, which makes you a genuine ‘product’ of Polish football. Is that something you’re proud of?

Of course, I’ll always be proud of where I come from, but I also know that I had to overcome a lot of hurdles and break through barriers to get to where I am now, and that sometimes I had to make things happen myself that I wasn’t able to achieve previously. I think that training and educating myself allowed me to develop. And there were also things I had neglected that I knew I needed to improve over time.

The Poland teams of 1974 and 1982 were among the strongest national sides of their era and achieved considerable success at the World Cup. Can the current team take that as motivation when looking ahead to this year’s tournament in Qatar?

It’s tough to compare football back then with the football of today. That success definitely made Poland the best national team around at that time, and they would have been deserving World Cup winners if they hadn’t had that game in the rain [against West Germany in 1974] or lost that other semi-final [against Italy in 1982]. Poland were favourites and probably would have won the title. But times have changed, football has evolved and the training methods are different now. Nevertheless, we’ll always try to give our best and make sure the fans are proud of us.

Grzegorz Lato won the Golden Boot at Germany 1974. What would it mean to you to follow in his footsteps in Qatar?

I’ll always try and score a goal when I have the opportunity, but it’ll be difficult to score as many as Grzegorz Lato. Although we’re not a team that creates a huge number of goalscoring opportunities, there might be a few chances to score. We’ll do everything we can to make sure we are hungry for goals as possible, but it’s the World Cup. Individual performances always take a back seat to the team and how we play as a unit.

How disappointed were you personally that Russia 2018 was over for Poland after the group stage?

That was one of the biggest disappointments of my career, not only because we were eliminated from the World Cup after the group stage but mostly because we didn’t create any opportunities. I didn’t have any chances, I didn’t score a single goal and that still hurts. Every time the team plays better, it makes life easier for all of us, but that was a failure both on my part and for the whole team. It was a huge disappointment.

What do you make of Poland’s group rivals Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia at Qatar 2022?

There’s not much to say when it comes to Argentina. They’re a huge team and one of the favourites to win the tournament in my opinion. With an absolute legend like Leo Messi as their figurehead, there’s no doubt that’ll be our toughest match. It’ll be great to take on such a great side with such talented players.

Mexico are a tough team who fight all the way to the final whistle and never give up. They have a combination of youth and experience, and we’re well aware that the Mexicans know how to play at major tournaments. It’ll be a big challenge for us.

Saudi Arabia are a surprise package. We know they have a solid defence and good tactical awareness. They are very agile and capable of good build-up play, so it’ll be up to us to decide how we approach that game. I think we’ll go into the group with a positive attitude. We’ll play every match with smiles on our faces even if we know it will be very tough.

Text from FIFA

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