Polish killer Robert Lewandowski was on target when his nation defeated a place at the 2022 World Cup with a victory over Sweden, after Russia was prevented from competing in the playoffs to reach Qatar.
Attacks by Lewandowski and midfielder Piotr Zielinski in the second half gave Poland a first victory over Sweden in a competition since 1974.
The Poles broke the deadlock at a fierce Silesian Stadium in Chorzow when Bayern Munich frontman Lewandowski struck from the penalty spot four minutes into the second half after Grzegorz Krychowiak – who recently left Russian club Krasnodar – was sent off in the penalty area. The finish was the 75th for productive Lewandowski in national team colors.
Napoli man Zielinski then took advantage of careless defense in the 72nd minute when he constructed a one-on-one match with Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen before calmly taking home.
Poland were indebted to stopper Wojciech Szczesny for some strong saves while Sweden boss Janne Andersson left it until the 79th minute to introduce veteran record goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, when a pulsating match had already slipped away.
Poland’s players cheered at the final whistle, celebrated on the pitch and put on T-shirts with the message that they were on their way to Qatar.
Tuesday night’s competition took place after the Poles said goodbye to the play-off final, and avoided a draw with Russia after they were suspended by FIFA in the wake of the military operation in Ukraine.
Russia and Poland were to meet in Moscow on March 24, where the winners were set against the winners of the playoff semifinals between Sweden and the Czech Republic – which the Swedes won 1-0 in overtime.
But each of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic had declared that they would refuse to play against Russia before FIFA and UEFA introduced a formal suspension on 28 February.
However, a final CAS ruling on the matter is still pending, with no date for the hearing set.
The court rules in Russia’s appeal against the World Cup
It has left Russia with a glimmer of hope that the ban can somehow be lifted, although that result seems unlikely given that the playoffs have been completed and that any legal victories require them to be replayed before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar in November. .
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s World Cup semi-final against Scotland has been postponed until at least June, when the winners of that match face Wales for a chance to reach Qatar.
In the absence of competitive matches during the international break, the Russian team held a training camp in Moscow.
Manager Valeri Karpin said recently it would be one “common sense triumph” if the ban was lifted and his team had the chance to qualify for Qatar.
The draw for the World Cup groups will take place in Qatar on Friday, where Poland will enter pot three of the seedings.
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