AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) – First it was Lionel Messi. Next up is Robert Lewandowski. The well-known opponents keep coming for Saudi Arabia.
After shocking Messi’s Argentina in one of the biggest World Cups Annoyed, the Green Falcons turn to Lewandowski and his Polish team on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia, the tournament’s second-lowest team, could even secure a place in the second round with a win – a remarkable feat for a side with no foreign players.
“We’ll work even harder than in the last game,” promised midfielder Sami Al-Najei. “Everyone knows that the next game is more important than the previous one.”
The “previous” was Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentinaone of the tournament favourites.
“It was an excellent game for us. We were able to show an excellent image for the national team of Saudi Arabia,” said Saleh Al-Shehri, one of the scorers. “But it’s only three points, we haven’t qualified yet.”
Goals from Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari shattered Group C and left the other rivals in contention after Mexico’s 0-0 draw with Poland.
It was Lewandowski’s fourth World Cup game and also his fourth without a goal.
Veteran Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa saved Lewandowski’s second-half penalty to keep the game goalless.
For Lewandowski, Poland’s record goalscorer with 76 goals, scoring is second nature. He scored 312 goals in 384 Bundesliga games before joining Barcelona in the off-season. He has scored 13 goals in 14 LaLiga games for Barcelona so far.
But in the 4-3-2-1 formation coached by Czeslaw Michniewicz, it’s not so easy for Poland to score goals. Lewandowski has never made a secret of the fact that he prefers to play with a partner in attack and does not wait alone for the service of deep-lying teammates.
“There’s still room for improvement going forward, we have to take more risks,” said Lewandowski. “It’s very difficult for a striker to go back that far. But when the coach has that tactic, then we have to adapt. Of course, as a striker, I would like to have more possession of the ball.”
Lewandowski was to see more of the same against Saudi Arabia, who had to rely on goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais to complete the win over Argentina with two late saves.
With a win for Poland, both sides would be down to 3 points in their final games in Group C. Poland meets Argentina four days later while Saudi Arabia meets Mexico.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports