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Lewandowski, Ibrahimovic seek World Cup place as Poland, Sweden clash

Chorzów (Poland) (AFP) – Either Robert Lewandowski or Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss out on the chance to play at the 2022 World Cup when Poland and Sweden clash in Tuesday’s play-off.

The winners in Chorzow will go into Friday’s draw for the World Cup group stage.

It could be the final chance to play at a World Cup for Swedish striker Ibrahimovic, who will be 41, and Poland’s Lewandowski, who will be 34, when the finals kick off in Qatar this November.

“A World Cup without Zlatan is not a World Cup,” said Ibrahimovic.

The veteran has endured an injury-blighted season and last played a full 90 minutes for his club AC Milan in January.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson said Monday that Ibrahimovic “is a weapon for us” as a substitute, but “can’t play the whole game”.

In contrast, Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski is in stellar form having scored 50 goals for club and country this season.

The Poland captain, a back-to-back winner of FIFA’s best men’s player award, took part in training Sunday after suffering a knee knock last week and is set to start in Chorzow.

There will be an element of seeking revenge for hosts Poland, who lost 3-2 to Sweden in their final Euro 2020 group game last year.

Sweden’s winning goal by Viktor Claesson in stoppage time in Saint Petersburg knocked Poland out in the group stage.

“We won last summer, so they (Poland) will no doubt be hungry for revenge,” said Sweden playmaker Emil Forsberg.

“It would be great to give them another slap in the face.”

Sweden are unhappy that Poland qualified automatically for the play-off final after being handed a bye when UEFA banned their semi-final opponents Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

“The principle of playing under the same conditions, i.e. winning two matches to reach the World Cup finals, should apply,” said Swedish FA general secretary Hakan Sjostrand.

The same night Poland drew a friendly away to Scotland last Thursday with Lewandowski rested, Sweden needed extra time to squeeze past the Czech Republic 1-0 in their play-off semi-final. 

Robin Quaison scored the winner for Sweden in the 110th minute in Stockholm.

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