Saint-Étienne (France) (AFP) – Coach Adam Nawalka again brushed off concerns about Robert Lewandowski’s lack of goals at Euro 2016 as Poland ended their 34-year wait to reach the quarter-finals of a major tournament.
Nawalka was delighted as Poland reached the quarter-finals on the big stage for the first time since the 1982 World Cup. And he insisted that Lewandowski is doing “incredibly well” at the European Championship finals.
The ‘Bialo-czerwoni’ (white and reds) had never previously qualified for a Euro knock-out stage.
Poland claimed the first quarter-final place at Euro 2016 on Saturday with a 5-4 win over Switzerland in a penalty shoot-out after Granit Xhaka blasted his spot-kick wide.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s spectacular second-half bicycle kick for the Swiss had taken the game to penalties after Jakob Blaszczykowski gave the Poles an early lead as it finished 1-1 after extra time.
Poland will now play Portugal or Croatia in the quarter-finals in Marseille on Thursday.
Despite netting Poland’s first penalty in the shootout, Lewandowski, the top scorer in qualifying with 13 goals, remains without a regular goal in France.
But the Bayern Munich striker worked tirelessly to run Poland’s attack, constantly dropping deep into midfield and creating chances for others.
He was clattered several times by Swiss defenders at Saint-Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy Guichard.
But Nawalka, as he did in the pre-match press conference, dismissed any criticism about his captain’s lack of goals.
“I’ll repeat it again, Robert Lewandowski is doing incredibly well and is helping the team to play better and stronger,” said Nawalka.
“The most important thing is the win and I’m very happy with him.
“There have been cases, in the past, where players, who are the star players of their team, got frustrated and when things didn’t go their way, they didn’t care.
“It’s the opposite here.
“Robert Lewandowski is fantastic and we’re happy with the way he plays, he’s giving and creating chances.
“He makes space for others, he often takes the opponents’ attention away from other players and he’s putting some great work in.”
Lewandowski scored 42 goals for Bayern last season in all competitions.
Nawalka is tipping his talisman to hit the net at Euro 2016 – preferably against Portugal or Croatia on Thursday in Marseille.
“I am sure the break will happen for him in the next game,” said the Poland boss.
“He’s working so hard.”
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