International displays don't match club form
26 August ~ Young talented Polish strikers used to be called "the next Lubanski" in reference to the former Gornik Zabrze and Poland legend who scored 48 times for his country in the 1960s and 1970s. Now "the next Lewandowski" is the preferred commendation for journalists and fans alike. Robert Lewandowski is proving that he can match – or even better – Wlodzimierz Lubanski's goalscoring records at club level but their international perfromances are what could prove to be the difference between the two.
While Lubanski leads the way as the highest-ever scorer for the Polish national team, in the last 14 months Lewandowski has managed just two goals for the Reprezentacja, both penalties in a 5-0 rout of San Marino. In fact, it has been over 19 hours since "Lewy" scored his Euro 2012 opener against Greece – his last international goal from open play. After his ninth goalless game in the last year, questions are now being asked about Lewandowski's attitude towards his international commitments. He was even booed off during Poland's recent friendly against Denmark after indicating to the bench that wanted to be replaced despite not being injured.
Despite his run, Lewy remains the best striker Poland have at their disposal. However his lack of goals in competitive matches – partly skewed by Poland's automatic qualification for Euro 2012 – is a worrying statistic. Besides that tournament opener against Greece, his other four competitive strikes have all come in three World Cup qualifying meetings with San Marino, with friendly goals against the likes of Andorra, Belarus and a brace against Singapore topping-up his tally of 17 in 55 appearances.
National coach Waldemar Fornalik is now coming under fire for continually picking the striker in his first 11. In the 14 games since Fornalik took the job following Franciszek Smuda's failure to take Poland to the Euro 2012 knockout stage, Lewandowski has started on ten occasions (of the remaining four matches, two involved squads of domestic league players, while the other two were friendlies ahead of important qualifiers). During this period, 18 other players have hit the net from open play, including midfielder Ludovic Obraniak and strikers Arkadiusz Milik, Lukasz Teodorczyk and Artur Sobiech, none of whom had a proper run as Lewandowski's partner.
A lack of goals against Moldova, Ukraine and England has seen Poland drop crucial points in Group H and even though the possible replacements are not as good as Lewandowski, it would be difficult for them to do any worse. The coach's constant faith in a non-scoring striker could be the defining reason for Poland failing to qualify for Brazil. With his job already in doubt beyond October, Fornalik may need to show he isn't afraid to make big decisions.
The final block of qualifying matches begin with Montenegro's trip to Warsaw on September 6. Some fans are suggesting that Lewandowski should be relegated to the bench before his 1143-minute drought costs Poland any more than it already has. That is something his performances have made increasingly hard to argue with. Ryan Hubbard