Robert Lewandowski gets first World Cup goal as Poland beat Saudi Arabia | World Cup 2022

Before kick-off, Hervé Renard denied that the government of Saudi Arabia had given his players a Rolls Royce each in recognition of their achievement in beating Argentina last week. The French manager of the Green Falcons reminded everyone that his team had not yet escaped the group stage and much to the dismay of the massive Saudi support that had converged on Doha, Robert Lewandowski enjoyed reinforcing the point before promptly bursting into tears .

Poland’s record goalscorer not only finally registered his first World Cup goal, but also created Piotr Zielinski’s opener as Renard’s initially dominant team missed a penalty and eventually ran out of steam.

“I’m proud of my players,” said Renard, whose hopes of leading Saudi Arabia to the knockout stages for the first time since 1994 depend on the outcome of their final Group C match against Mexico. “But we were not efficient and Poland is strong. With Wojciech Szczesny, Piotr Zielinski and Robert Lewandowski they have three fantastic players. Congratulations to Lewandowski on his first World Cup goal… but we’re still alive.”

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“Lewangoalski” was quite delighted. “I’ve always wanted to score at a World Cup and my dream has come true,” he said. “I was so emotional. I can confirm they were tears of joy. As captain of Poland I am so happy for our team.”

Barely two minutes into the match, he grimaced after being left limping after a thoroughbred, world-leading Saudi challenge. It was cheered to the brim by a packed house at Education City, where the stadium’s predominantly Saudi supporter turned the stadium into a sea of ​​green. Poland players were booed like pantomime thugs every time they touched the ball.

The atmosphere served as a tailwind for Renard’s lively side and it took an excellent save from Szczesny to palm a shot over the crossbar from the impressive Mohammed Kanno. Invariably half a meter off the pace at this point, Poland was in danger of being overrun by wave after wave of Saudi attacks and it spoke volumes that three of Czeslaw Michniewicz’s players were booked in the 20th minute.

Lewandowski was so starved that he sank deeper and deeper in search of the ball, and at one point was spotted in the right-back position. Everything changed when Aston Villa’s Matty Cash, Michniewicz’s actual right-back, overlapped, and while Lewandowski couldn’t control Cash’s final cross in the way he’d hoped, he deftly delivered it to Zielinski.

Poland's Wojciech Szczesny saves Mohammed al-Breik's follow-up shot after saving a penalty from Salem al-Dawsari.
Poland’s Wojciech Szczesny saves Mohammed al-Breik’s follow-up shot after saving a penalty from Salem al-Dawsari. Photo: Peter Bryne/PA

When Zielinski’s fantastic first volley flew high into the net, the Poland captain smiled for the first time. However, his frown soon returned when Krystian Bielik hit Saleh al-Shehri’s ankle in the area and was awarded a soft penalty following a VAR assessment. Salem al-Dawsari’s poor penalty was parried low by Szczesny, and the former Arsenal goalkeeper then performed acrobatic marvels to somehow tip Mohammed al-Burayk’s successor over the crossbar.

Szczesny’s double save was one of the best goalkeeping interventions of the World Cup. It was now dark in Doha and Renard urgently needed one of his players to turn on the lights for his side.

But Poland’s back four – Michniewicz had switched from his more famous defensive trio especially for this match – held on. Indeed, they would have increased their advantage without a header from Arkadiusz Milik and a shot from Lewandowski, who by now got to the points of attack for Poland and hit the crossbar.

Saudi Arabia had lost its former shape, structure and sharpness and was visibly tiring. Renard’s typical hyperactive efforts on the sidelines left his trademark fitted white shirt drenched in sweat as he watched his substitutes fail to produce the desired effect.

When Abdulellah al-Malki’s heavy, seemingly tired touch enabled the often deceptively anonymous but ever-alert Lewandowski to snatch the ball off his toe, the game was set for the Green Falcons. After directing a low left foot shot under the goalkeeper for his 77th international goal, the Barcelona attacker was overcome with emotion and overrun by teammates, eventually emerging to blow a kiss to the crowd. The result leaves both sides with everything to play for

“I hope our fans don’t give up on us,” said Renard, concerned his team’s momentum could ebb. “My message is: Please continue to support us and help Saudi Arabia make history.”

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