Poland manager Adam Nawalka has warned Scotland and the Republic of Ireland that they will have to cope with “the best striker in the world” in Robert Lewandowski as the Group D qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 reaches its finale.
Lewandowski goes into the double-header in scintillating form, having scored 12 goals in his last four matches for Bayern Munich.
Scotland, who host Poland tonight, and Ireland, who travel to Warsaw on Sunday, face a mammoth task to keep Lewandowski quiet, Nawalka argues.
“Lewandowski is the best centre-forward in the world for me, of course,” he said. “He is number one. He’s the best striker in the world.”
However, Nawalka feels the rest of his team should not be overlooked.
“Of course Robert is a very important player in our team. He’s the key player and has a lot of different strengths. He has leadership qualities and gives a lot of energy to other players.
“However a lot of our team members do their job and do the best they can and they are very important. You can see the atmosphere in the team is very good.
“They keep improving and that’s the foundation for the future of our team.” The Poland boss expects a tough battle at Hampden Park tonight.
“Of course we need to be prepared for a good fight and for aggressive play,” said Nawalka, whose side could secure automatic qualification at Hampden.
“In the final stages of the qualifiers we need to be prepared for this but also we hope that skills will be more important. We also hope we will be in control of the game and play the ball as we get it.”
Nawalka stressed he respected the creative attributes of Scotland, who also won in Warsaw last year, during a friendly.
“Scotland do very well as a team,” he said. “They play collectively and are disciplined and creative. They don’t play in a traditional, physical British way. They don’t play long balls, they can be very constructive in attack.”
For his part, Gordon Strachan has rejected suggestions from Poland that the visitors will be facing an overly-physical Scotland side tonight.
Much has been made of the tackle on Lewandowski by defender Gordon Greer when the teams drew 2-2 in Warsaw a year ago, not least by the Bayern Munich striker who has this week tried to put pressure on Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai. Lewandowski reportedly said: “I hope the situation on Thursday is not the same as in Warsaw because after that foul by Greer I couldn’t run. I hope the ref will be more diligent this time.”
However Strachan, who has lost winger Ikechi Anya to a calf injury, used Uefa statistics to compare the physicality of both teams.
He said: “I don’t know the officials, or who is refereeing, I don’t care.
“All I know is that over the tournament they have had about 30% more fouls (given) against them than we have and more yellow cards than we have, so that is the reality. You can look it up.”
In eight qualifiers Scotland have committed 80 fouls and picked up 12 yellow cards while the Poles have committed 110 fouls and received 15 yellow cards.
Strachan stressed teamwork is key to dampen the threat of Lewandowski and his team-mates. He said: “Most of our work has been done in group defending and group attacking and hopefully our group defending will nullify any areas that their top players want to play in.
“But the secret is actually, if you keep the ball long enough and longer than them, then the chances of them scoring a goal is reduced.”
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