Euro 2016

Poland coach won't fret over Lewandowski's barren run

MARSEILLE • It may not have been pretty or entertaining, but Poland's footballers will care little after Jakub Blaszczykowski's second-half strike - which gave them a 1-0 win over Ukraine - booked their place in the the European Championship last 16 for the first time.

It is an achievement made even more remarkable given that their talisman Robert Lewandowski has not managed to even register a shot on target in their opening three games of the competition.

Should Lewandowski, the Bundesliga's top scorer last season, start firing in their last-16 clash against Switzerland in Saint- Etienne on Saturday, then Poland will have justifiable reason to be confident of progressing farther.

"That Lewandowski hasn't scored yet is not a problem whatsoever," Poland coach Adam Nawalka said of the Bayern Munich forward.

"He plays in a supportive way throughout. It's just a matter of time for him, he's creating a lot of chances and I think he will score in the next match."

The Poles scored 33 goals in qualifying, the most in Europe, with Lewandowski contributing 13.

Two victories by a single goal and a draw against Germany in a game where they wasted a number of opportunities, should still give Poland plenty of confidence.

Arkadiusz Milik and Lewandowski wasted wonderful opportunities to score as Poland made a bright and inventive start.

It was not until the 56th minute that they finally managed to break the deadlock when Blaszczykowski latched on to Milik's pass before turning on to his left foot and curling the ball into the far corner.

"Kuba (Blaszczykowski) is an important player for us," Nawalka said. "He is very experienced. He has a great influence on the way we play."

Blaszczykowski, 30, captained Poland when they co-hosted Euro 2012 with Ukraine and has won over 80 caps.

"We were losing control of the midfield and that's why I sent him on," Nawalka said. "He increased the quality of the play when he came on."

Switzerland, the Group A runners-up, will have two more days to prepare but Nawalka is not concerned.

"We have enough time to get ready," he said. "Switzerland are one of the most interesting teams in the tournament and we are expecting a very difficult match."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Poland coach won't fret over Lewandowski's barren run'. Print Edition | Subscribe