Kylian Mbappé’s France, crowned in 2018, comes up against Robert Lewandowski’s Poland and the pressure of a first knockout match, Sunday December 4 at 4 p.m. in the round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup. The winner will challenge the survivor of a duel between England and Senegal.
“The team is aware of the event, of entering a new phase of this competition. If you win, you give yourself the right to stay, if you lose, you go home”, summarized captain Hugo Lloris, at the head of a talented selection, renewed and stretched towards the possibility of a historic double. In the post-war period, no team has held onto the World Cup throne since Pelé’s Brazil in 1962.
During the group stage, the defending champions dominated Australia (4-1) and Denmark (2-1) with composure, the holders almost all blew against Tunisia (1-0 defeat) and they arrive with light legs against the Poles blunted by three hung matches.
Erase Euro defeat to Switzerland
“The lights are green”the “talent” is there, be careful however not to bend under the weight of the event, recalls Lloris. “From now on, the mind is a very important factor”, warns the goalkeeper of Tottenham, brought to equal Sunday the 142 selections of Lilian Thuram, record of the team of France. At this level, any lack of concentration is eliminatory and the French paid the price, in the round of 16 of the Euro in 2021, wasting a two-goal lead in the last quarter of an hour against Switzerland (3-3 , 5-4 tabs).
France-Poland is a very rare poster in the World Cup, the two nations having met only once, in 1982: Boniek’s Poland then dominated France’s Tigana (3-2) and finished third of the competition. A feat that it has not managed to reproduce since, since the Polish selection has not passed the first round since 1986. In sixteen confrontations in total, the Blues lead widely, by eight victories to three.
A goalkeeper in great shape
To thwart the Blues, the main Polish asset is a goalkeeper and is called Wojciech Szczesny. The bulwark of Juventus played a major role in the qualification of his team by stopping two penalties in the group stage, including one against the Argentinian Lionel Messi. The survival of Bialo Czerwoni (“White and Red”) is more about the performance of the doorman than the flashes of Robert Lewandowski, his attacking star, too lonely to shine.
“Lewandowski can make a difference at any time” but “It remains a collective, a team that takes great pleasure in defending and suffering”noted Lloris, even if “Lewy”top scorer in Europe for the past two seasons, is struggling to weigh in this World Cup.