DOHA : Robert Lewandowski’s penalty miss against Mexico shone a harsh spotlight on his personal World Cup goal drought and underscored how toothless Poland are despite being spearheaded by one of the Europe’s best goalscorers.
Poland captain Lewandowski seemed on the verge of ending his World Cup tournament jinx just before the hour mark when he was brought down by Mexico’s Hector Moreno and the Barcelona striker placed the ball on the spot after a VAR check.
But his effort was too close to Guillermo Ochoa who saved with a dive to his left that had the Stadium 974 rocking with the celebrations of Mexico’s massed fans, and extended the Pole’s unhappy run that now stretches over four games in two World Cup tournaments.
By contrast, he scored nine goals for Poland in the qualifiers for the World Cup in Qatar and has been in fine form for his new club Barcelona this season, netting 18 times in 19 games in all competitions.
Before moving to Spain, Lewandowski became the second-highest scorer in the history of the German Bundesliga after hugely successful spells at Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
So Lewandowski’s World Cup problem clearly is not only of his own making.
Last year he urged Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz to give him a strike partner. Experiments with a broader line of attack followed.
But the centre forward cut a lonely figure once again in the first half against Mexico’s rugged back line before Michniewicz shifted tactics and ordered Piotr Zielinski to play higher up, a change that led to Poland creating more chances.
But Lewandowski and his team mates still only produced two shots on target in the entire game.
Michniewicz said he felt sorry for his centre forward after he missed the chance to break his World Cup duck and praised him for battling against Mexico’s back line.
“It was not easy for him to play right up against two strong central defenders who were always on him. It was difficult for him to win those balls. That was Mexico’s tactic and it did not surprise us, that is how you play against Robert,” the Polish coach said.
Poland’s two shots on target compared with Mexico’s four, itself an unimpressive tally which shows how the Latin Americans have their own problems in attack.
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino chose 30-year-old Henry Martin to lead his attack against Poland. But the Club America frontman created only one real chance before he was replaced by Raul Jimenez.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers striker is normally Mexico’s automatic choice as centre forward but has been out for months with injury and may struggle to regain match fitness in time to have an impact in Qatar.
“We need to be more effective,” Martino told reporters. “We need to convert the opportunities that we create into goals.”
Mexico and Poland both have one point in Group C after one match, trailing surprise leaders Saudi Arabia who beat Argentina 2-1 in one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.
(Writing by William Schomberg, additional reporting by Anita Kobylinska and Rohith Nair, editing by Ed Osmond)