Robert Lewandowski dominates Qatar as he continues World Cup legacy | world Cup

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Jhe army of workers tasked with sweeping mini mountains of dust from the gates of Doha spends long days constantly battling the elements. In a city built on sand, the gentlest of breezes makes it nearly impossible to keep the desert from intruding on an otherwise sparkling capital well accustomed to welcoming the forces of nature.

He welcomes another right now, in the form of a striker capable of rendering the best defenders in the world as helpless as the street cleaners of Qatar.

Although Robert Lewandowski spends most of his days cooped up in the team hotel, he is omnipresent here. Once night falls and it descends early into the Gulf at this time of year, giant images of the Polish captain and top scorer light up the sides of the skyscrapers that line the city’s corniche.

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In the sky above the Arabian Sea, countless stacked Qatar Airways flights circle in circles as they queue to land at Hamad Airport. Before takeoff, passengers might have been slightly surprised to see Lewandowski starring in a football-themed safety video.

While fellow part-time actor Brazil’s Neymar is simply seen escorting business class passengers to their seats, the 34-year-old demonstrates how to don a life jacket in the event of an unplanned landing on the water.

Given that Responsibility and Lewandowski are no strangers, the casting seems fitting. “Playing for Poland definitely brings enormous pressure,” agrees a striker who hopes to lead his country to victory against Mexico in their first group game on Tuesday. “I am deeply aware of the responsibility to meet the expectations of our fans. They grow with each goal. No matter who we play against and the challenges we face, everyone expects me to score, but this is not always easy.

Lewandowski lands a heel kick in World Cup qualifying
Lewandowski carries the expectations of a nation on his shoulders. Photography: Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

He will carry the hopes, among others, of half the clientele of L’Autre, a Polish-Mexican restaurant in London’s Mayfair who know that a victory would significantly increase the chances of Czeslaw Michniewicz’s team of escaping the group stage of the tournament for the first time in 36 years. years. An evocative photograph from Argentina 1978 hangs proudly on the wall of The Other, depicting the scenes when the two countries last met at a World Cup and Poland won 3-1.

Given Lewandowski’s age, a repeat could not only get him a ticket to a group that also includes Argentina and Saudi Arabia, but an extended last hurray on the world stage. “I don’t think it will be my last World Cup,” says one player clearly inclined to rage at the death of light. “I also want to star in the next one.”

Given that ‘Lewangoalski’ has scored 18 times in 19 appearances for Barcelona this season and remains celebrated in Germany – where he played under Jürgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich – it would be unwise to doubt him. Both coaches admired the work ethic of a 6ft 1in striker who didn’t finish growing until he was 20 and made up for this late physical development by becoming not only two-footed but also expert in the air.

Such dedication paid off, helping him to 76 goals in 134 appearances for Poland and a quintet of Bundesliga Player of the Year crowns. Lewandowski’s place in the firmament of the world’s greatest centre-forwards is secured with over 500 career goals, but something important is missing from an otherwise near-perfect resume.

Despite this compelling blend of superior movement, stellar technique and sheer power, he still hasn’t scored at a World Cup. As a mitigation, Poland’s failure to qualify in 2010 and 2014 meant they only made it to the group stage of one final – Russia 2018.

“Russia was one of the biggest disappointments of my career, mainly because we didn’t create any opportunities,” he says. “I haven’t had any chances and it still hurts. It was a failure. To score in a World Cup is a big dream and I will do everything to make this dream come true.

Further inspiration is provided by the famous Polish sides of 1974 and 1982 which recorded third place finishes in the World Cup, with Grzegorz Lato winning the Golden Boot at West Germany 1974 after scoring seven goals. “I would do well to beat Lato, we are not a team that creates a lot of chances,” admits Lewandowski.

Lato entered politics after retiring from playing, and Lewandowski is widely praised for his philanthropic and charitable work. This may partly be a consequence of Klopp’s influence as an almost surrogate parent – the striker was just 16 when his father died and credited the German with offering him advice off the pitch invaluable – that Lewandowski has such a balanced and mature balance on and off the pitch.

Robert Lewandowski player profile
Robert Lewandowski

“Argentina will be our toughest game,” says a man who believes Guardiola taught him new and invaluable tactical thinking. “But I will be very happy to play against [Lionel] Messi. He changed football for the better, forever.

Although he believes a strong and tactically smart Saudi Arabia should not be underestimated, Mexico present the immediate challenge. “They’re a tough team that fights until the final whistle and never gives up,” he said. “They know how to play in big tournaments. It will be a big test. But we will play every game with a smile on our face and as a unit. Even if it’s very hard, I’m going to enjoy it.

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