Most of France‘s speech ahead of Qatar’s Round of 16 clash with Poland has been about how Les Bleus will deal with Robert Lewandowski, but the reigning world champions are well aware that the Polish national team is very more than their renowned striker.
Lewandowski is indeed a deadly weapon up front, but Poland are a very compact team with another great asset at the other end of the field in goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has already saved two penalties at this World Cup.
Over his career, Szczesny has saved 26 of the 87 penalties taken against him and it’s safe to say France will be desperate to avoid a penalty shoot-out at Al Thumama on Sunday.
“They had to defend a lot in the group stage and they defended very well. They actually love it, but they’re not just a defensive team. Just look at who they have up front”, said coach Didier Deschamps at a press conference this Saturday (3).
“But there is more. They have a backbone of players with great international experience, with Kamil Glik, Piotr Zieliński, Grzegorz Krychowiak and a few youngsters who have shown they are up to the task. They deserve to be here,” he declared.
Poland have had just five shots on target in three games, but three of them have come from Lewandowski, who only needs half a chance to score.
The ideal scenario for France will be to contain the striker from Barcelona (Spain) and avoid ending the game in the penalty shootout, which is certainly not the strong point of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Lloris, who will equal Lilian Thuram’s French record of 142 appearances for France on Sunday, saved just 16 of 108 penalties taken against him in his career, a failure that came at a heavy cost for France at last year’s Euros when they were knocked out. in the round of 16 by Switzerland in a penalty shoot-out.
“We’ve been looking at penalties with the analysts, but there’s a psychological factor that comes into play, and also how penalties are taken,” said the France captain.
Lloris added, however, that France have what it takes to overthrow Poland in regulation time, if they stay focused at all times.
“Some goalkeepers are better at [penalidades]but if we are fully focused from start to finish, we have the weapons to beat it before we get there,” he said.
“We need to have that killer instinct,” he concluded.
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Translated to english by RJ983
From Brazil, by EBC News