Robert Lewandowski is facing another exit from a major international football tournament.
Unless Poland can find a way past one of the toughest defenses of the European Championship.
The victory over Sweden is the only way for Poland to reach the knockout stage of Euro 2020 – and this is something that no team has succeeded in seven matches in 2021.
Where there is Lewandowski, there is hope for Poland.
The reigning FIFA Player of the Year recovered from an astonishing 2-1 draw with Poland in Group E, scoring the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Spain to effectively support his team in the tournament.
It was also a classic striker’s finish, using his power to hold his marker, Aymeric Laporte, and aimed a header from a cross in the bottom corner for his 67th international goal.
Lewandowski had to eat leftovers against Spain, and so could Sweden, an ultra-pragmatic team whose ambitious ambitions may be even more limited than normal at a stadium in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
After all, Sweden has four points from its first two Group E matches – a 0-0 draw against Spain and a 1-0 victory over Slovakia – and was confident of qualifying for the round of 16 because of Monday’s results.
A victory would secure first place in the group. Then again, maybe equality.
Sweden is one of the three teams that have not yet conceded a goal at Euro 2020, along with Italy and England. Given these statistics and the team’s tendency to defend compactly and in cash, especially when it is not necessary to attack, this explains why Poland faces such a difficult task.
Lewandowski has advanced from the group stage only once in three appearances at either the World Cup or the European Championship with Poland. This was at Euro 2016, for the first time the continental tournament was expanded to 24 teams.
While 67 goals in 121 games for Poland is an incredible record, the Bayern Munich striker often starves from quality service in major tournaments when the standard of the opposition rises. He has only three goals in 13 World Cup or European Championship matches.
Poland, who are last in the group with one point, may be left without defender Jan Bednarek and midfielder Jakub Moder due to injury.
Sweden coach Jane Anderson may decide to change his squad now that qualification is guaranteed and give some time to play for the final players.
Dejan Kulusevski can return to Sweden after being left on the bench against Slovakia. The wing had just returned to full training after completing a period of self-isolation after being infected with a coronavirus.