Poland set to welcome back ‘best player in the world’ Robert Lewandowski

<span>Robert Lewandowski has returned to training and is in line to start againsst Austria.</span><span>Photograph: Leszek Szymański/EPA</span>
Robert Lewandowski has returned to training and is in line to start againsst Austria.Photograph: Leszek Szymański/EPA

Robert Lewandowski is ready to hand Poland a major boost by returning to action against Austria on Friday, with Wojciech Szczesny adamant their record goalscorer’s mere presence on the pitch will strike fear into their opponents.

Lewandowski missed their Group D opener against the Netherlands on Sunday owing to a thigh problem but is in line to start in a game Szczesny labelled “our little final”. Lewandowski sustained the injury in their final warmup match, against Turkey, before the tournament but has trained in recent days and is expected to lead the line in Berlin.

“He is the best Polish player of all time and regardless of how well others will play, because Adam Buksa played a very good match against the Netherlands – he scored a very important goal for us – the fact that Robert is on the pitch is changing our overall approach and our opponents approach as well,” Szczesny said. “It is natural that his presence can only help us. When it comes to Robert, the more leaders we have on the pitch, the better. Having him makes a big difference. Robert’s performance makes a big difference and I know the Austrians won’t be happy he is fit.”

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Poland’s manager, Michal Probierz, described Lewandowski, Poland’s captain and most-capped player as well as top scorer, as “the best player in the world”. The 35-year-old was among those who took part in a 45-minute training session at the Olympiastadion on Thursday. “There is a big difference between having the best player in the world on the bench and whether he is available to play or not and that’s why it is so important for him we will make a decision after today’s session,” Probierz said.

Poland, who face France in their final group match in Dortmund on Tuesday, recognise the importance of victory against Austria if they are to have any hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage. “To come to Germany for two weeks, play three games and go home, I don’t want that,” said Szczesny, the Juventus goalkeeper who is likely to retire from international duty after this summer. “I want to fight for some higher aims and I believe this team can fight for it. I think tomorrow it is our little final and the most important moment of our tournament.”

Probierz, a colourful character, made headlines for wearing a stylish three-piece suit on the touchline against the Netherlands. “Well, I wanted to feel comfortable, I like to be well-dressed,” he said. “I like to have a nice feeling.” Asked whether he has suffered sleepless nights on the eve of a game of such magnitude, he replied: “Not at all, I can sleep all the time, I slept in the car on the way to this press conference. I have been a coach for 23 years. I have coached kids, at youth level and now the national team – it is the same at all levels.”

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