Lewandowski and Zielinski on target as Poland beat Sweden to book World Cup spot
Poland has sealed their spot in the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup after Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski’s second-half goals gave them a play-off final win over Sweden.
Lewandowski broke the deadlock after a scoreless first half, netting from the penalty spot in the 49th minute following Jesper Karlstrom’s foul on Grzegorz Krychowiak in the area.
Sweden dominated the game for the most part of the match courtesy of their youthful attacking vigour but in the end, the hosts capitalised on the visitor’s mistakes thanks to the experience of Lewandowski and his teammates.
There were few chances in a cagey first half with Polish keeper Wojciech Szczęsny denying Emil Forsberg before Matty Cash shot wide at the other end.
Sweden looked like they would score the equaliser as they pressed high, however, a breakdown in the visitor’s defense allowed Piotr Zielinski to break free on goal and curl a tidy shot past Robin Olson at his near post to double Poland’s lead.
Grzegorz Krychowiak was introduced at the interval and made an instant impact on the game as he was fouled in the area by Karlström allowing Lewandowski to ripple the back of the net from the spot.
Sweden, however, saw the tie slip away from them when Marcus Danielson’s poor control at the back allowed Zielinski to nip in, run in on goal, and double the lead.
There could have been more goals for the hosts but Robin Olsen saved well from powerful Jan Bednarek and Lewandowski headers.
Sweden introduced their record goalscorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, off the bench for the final 10 minutes but the Polish defence held firm in front of a capacity crowd to book their spot in the World Cup finals. The 40-year-old AC Milan forward has now likely played his final World Cup match.
Reacting to this win, Lewandowski said
“We had many problems before this match. A lot of our players were injured, including me – I had a problem with my knee. We suffered, but now we can celebrate. I am proud and happy.”
Defender Kamil Glik, who played with a muscle injury, said:
“It was new for all of us – for me, for Robert [Lewandowski], who had played many matches but he hadn’t played one like this, none of us had. I wasn’t interested in what would happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next week, next year. All that mattered was the here and now.”
Poland will learn their group opponents on Friday when FIFA holds the draw for the 2022 World Cup.