Two of the greatest strikers of the outgoing generation, Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will meet for the first time in their careers as Sweden travels to Poland for their World Cup qualifiers games.
Poland qualified for the finals of the playoffs by being given a pass following Russia’s ban from football due to their president’s invasion of Ukraine. Sweden, meanwhile, qualified by beating Czech Republic in extra time thanks to a goal from Robin Quaison.
Both attacking behemoths will now face each other for the first time in their careers on the pitch, with one of them likely to miss what could be their last shot at the World Cup.
Ibrahimovic came out of national team retirement for one last hurrah last year during Sweden’s World Cup qualifiers stage. He scored a few goals and helped the team finish behind Spain in the group to send them to the playoffs.
He was on course for another Euros appearance but the all-time leading goalscorer for Sweden had to miss the tournament due to injury.
Ibrahimovic, who will be 41 by the time Qatar 2022 rolls around, said last year when questioned about his decision to play in the World Cup that, “a World Cup without Zlatan is not a World Cup.”
However, he is expected to start from the bench against Poland as his nation battles for a ticket in the Polish city of Chorzow.
Sweden’s coach Janne Andersson said in the pre-match press conference on Monday that Ibrahimovic is a weapon for the team, but at his age and physical fitness levels, cannot play the full game and will be used as a substitute.
Andersson also compared Poland to Czech Republic, saying that the tie is beneficial for them. “[Poland] are tactically similar to Czech Republic, and that’s beneficial for us, having played a similar side on Thursday.
“Robert Lewandowski is world-class and that gives them an edge. We played them last summer and that was a battle. I expect the same tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Lewandowski will be looking to lead Poland as captain to the World Cup and his stellar form could outshine Ibrahimovic’s charisma and presence for Sweden.
The Bayern Munich forward has scored 50 goals for club and country so far and is not slowing down. He is set to start in the game despite suffering a knock last week during training.
Poland will also be seeking some revenge against Sweden, who they lost 3-2 to in their final group stage game of Euro 2020 last year.
“We won last summer, so they (Poland) will no doubt be hungry for revenge,” admitted Sweden playmaker Emil Forsberg. “It would be great to give them another slap in the face.”
Czesław Michniewicz, Poland coach said in his pre-match presser: “We have studied Sweden in depth. We also had our people at their game against Czech Republic. We know what to expect from them.
“They are a very good, very well organised team, no doubt about it. But we will have our plan for this match. Provided he is fit, Wojciech Szczęsny will be in goal for us.”