Robert Lewandowski’s Rise to Glory: Champions League Performance and Euro Qualification

So is this the Champions League? Having arrived from São Paulo last winter, Lucas Beraldo probably understood what still separated him from the very highest European level, last Wednesday, during the quarter-final first leg between PSG and Barça (2-3). Sent to mark Robert Lewandowski by his coach Luis Enrique, the Brazilian defender had a long, too long evening. Completely overwhelmed by the movements and stalls of the Polish striker, the young 20-year-old defender will perhaps thank him, one day, for this learning in mondovision. But not now. In his defense, it must still be said that the Brazilian international fell on the “Lewy” of big nights. No luck. If he had faced him in the first part of the season, perhaps the situation would have been different. Not here.

Since the start of 2024, Lewandowski has indeed regained color. As if the 35-year-old striker, who had to live with criticism from supporters and the Catalan press, had started from scratch. It was better, moreover, just to forget his two-month period without scoring (between the end of September and mid-November). In the game, too, the Polish center forward experienced many difficulties, probably little helped by the sometimes too individualistic profile of his attacking colleagues. But all that was before.

His best match against PSG?

“What happened with Robert is also a consequence of the improvement of the team,” Xavi said in recent weeks. “I think the team has improved in many aspects of the game, and that That’s why Robert has more chances to score. He’s better positioned, we attack and defend in a more organized way. And I think all of this improves all the players involved. Robert has perhaps been more effective in the last few matches. , but I think it’s the result of the fact that we are better positioned, we attack better, we defend better, we play with more intensity I think we have improved, and that’s why. Robert has progressed in his statistics.”

Despite a season almost cut in two, for him as for his team, capable of showing a completely different face after the announcement of Xavi’s departure at the end of January, Lewandowski maintained a more than adequate performance. With 13 goals in 28 La Liga matches, he is, ultimately, only four small units behind Artem Dovbyk (Girona), first in the scorers’ ranking. Along with the Ukrainian, he is also the most decisive player in the Spanish championship thanks to his 21 appearances (13 goals, 8 assists).

All competitions combined, the productivity of the Pole, author of a great match against Atlético Madrid (3-0, one goal, two assists) on March 17, climbs to 20 goals and 9 offerings in 40 matches. But proof that football is not just about stats, “Lewy” certainly played his best match in the Barça jersey last week, at the Parc des Princes, without appearing in the scorers or assists table. “He had a great match, participating in all the attacking actions,” said the daily Mundo Deportivo the next day. “It was difficult to defend against him,” admitted Marquinhos in the mixed zone.

He will be at the Euro

That evening, the Barça striker brought out the range of the best number 9. His defenders catapulted long balls at him to escape the Parisian pressing? No problem, almost all were left clean. Was Beraldo following him all over the field? So we might as well take advantage of it to open up spaces and boulevards. Deviations, movements, pivot, game intelligence… A great attacker, a great evening and a great match. Even without scoring, Lewandowski was decisive on two of the three Catalan goals. Each time, his work at the start of the action made the difference. At 1-0, the Polish center forward comes to ask for the ball at the central circle, with his back to the goal, before turning around, moving forward, shifting Yamal to throw himself onto the center and causing the error by Donnarumma. And on the third goal signed by Christensen, the action which leads to the decisive corner is initiated by one of his brilliant discounts. Single-handedly, he undermined the entire Parisian defensive block.

“There were a lot of one-on-one duels, and Lewandowski understood that very well,” Xavi said after the match. For AS, the performance of the Blaugrana number 9 was simply “masterful”. “He didn’t score, but he had a great match,” said Sport, a media outlet historically close to Barça. On the selection side, too, Lewandowski also found a smile again by winning, at the end of March, a qualification for the Euro on penalties (0-0, 5 tab 4) against Wales in the play-offs.

Full of joy, the Pole undoubtedly heaved a big sigh of relief thinking that he could, at 35, say goodbye to major international selection competitions. This would have been a resounding failure as the country has always participated in the Euro since 2008. During the game, the attacker had been muzzled by the Welsh defense and had little influence on the game when, frustrated, he was eventually came back down to help with the construction. He made up for it by shooting first on penalties to show his team the way: serene, the ex-Bayern Munich scorer played Danny Ward by watching until the end where the goalkeeper was going to dive. The meeting in Germany will be on his summer agenda. Until then, he still has one season to complete in Catalonia. If possible on a good note. For now, things seem to be going well.

Robert Lewandowski with Poland against Estonia, March 21, 2024.

Credit: Getty Images

2024-04-15 21:52:00
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