WARSAW, Poland (AP)Poland captain Robert Lewandowski will shoulder his country’s World Cup hopes as the star name in coach Czesław Michniewicz’s squad for the tournament in Qatar.
Michniewicz, formerly coach of Poland’s Under-21s then Legia Warsaw, announced his 26-player team on Thursday and said it was the “most important decision of my life.”
The 34-year-old Lewandowski, Poland’s record scorer with 76 goals in 134 appearances, will captain the squad as he looks to get his first goals at a World Cup.
Lewandowski failed to get on the mark in his only previous World Cup appearance in Russia in 2018, when Jan Bednarek and Grzegorz Krychowiak got the team’s only goals as Poland was eliminated from the group stage after losses to Senegal and Colombia. Poland, already eliminated, then beat Japan in its final game.
Lewandowski has not had any problems scoring for Barcelona since his summer switch from Bayern Munich, with 13 goals in La Liga and five in the Champions League.
Other notable players included in Michniewicz’s squad are Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, Aston Villa defenders Jan Bednarek and Matty Cash, Benevento defender Kamil Glik, Pogoń Szczecin midfielder Kamil Grosicki and Napoli winger Piotr Zieliński.
“Each of these players represents such a level and such skills that I can count on them every moment,” said Michniewicz, who took over as Poland coach in January following predecessor Paulo Sousa’s decision to leave for Brazilian team Flamengo three months before Poland’s World Cup playoffs.
Michniewicz said he selected Damian Szymański because the squad had a “deficit of defensive midfielders” and that the AEK Athens player had been “excellent recently.”
Brighton midfielder Jakub Moder missed out after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury in a 0-0 draw with Norwich City just days after he helped Poland beat Sweden 2-0 in their World Cup playoff in March. A penalty from Lewandowski and another goal from Zieliński – a key player for the Napoli team currently eight points clear in Serie A – were enough to book Poland’s place in the tournament.
Poland faces Chile for a final World Cup warmup on Wednesday, before opening its tournament campaign in Group C against Mexico on Nov. 22. Poland then plays Saudi Arabia four days later before a potentially decisive final game against Argentina on Nov. 30.
Goalkeepers: Bartłomiej Drągowski (Spezia), Łukasz Skorupski (Bologna), Wojciech Szczęsny (Juventus)
Defenders: Jan Bednarek (Aston Villa), Bartosz Bereszyński (Sampdoria), Matty Cash (Aston Villa), Kamil Glik (Benevento), Robert Gumny (Augsburg), Artur Jędrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Jakub Kiwior (Spezia), Mateusz Wieteska (Clermont), Nicola Zalewski (Roma).
Midfielders: Krystian Bielik (Birmingham City), Przemyslaw Frankowski (Lens), Kamil Grosicki (Pogoń Szczecin), Jakub Kamiński (Wolfsburg), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Al-Shabab), Michał Skóraś (Lech Poznań), Damian Szymański (AEK Athens), Sebastian Szymański (Feyenoord), Piotr Zieliński (Napoli), Szymon Żurkowski (Fiorentina)
Forwards: Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Arkadiusz Milik (Juventus), Krzysztof Piątek (Salernitana), Karol Świderski (Charlotte FC)
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