Gareth McAuley insists Northern Ireland are “ready for the challenge” of facing Robert Lewandowski in their Euro 2016 opener against Poland.
Bayern Munich star Lewandowski is one of the world’s most feared strikers, and scored 42 goals in all competitions for his club last season.
The 27-year-old was also the top scorer in qualifying for the Euros, plundering 13 goals in 10 appearances as Poland came second behind Germany in Group D.
However, West Brom defender McAuley is looking forward to pitting himself against Poland’s prolific captain.
“He is a top player for Poland, but they have other threats too,” said McAuley.
“Scoring 42 goals in the Bundesliga and 13 in the qualifying campaign for this tournament shows you what Lewandowski is capable of. He could easily go to the Premier League and be tested there.
“We are ready for the challenge of keeping them out – but we will want to test the Polish defence as well.”
Northern Ireland are competing at their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, and McAuley is hopeful the 2016 vintage can “leave a legacy” that ensures the nation are not waiting another 30 years to participate in a finals.
“We want to do well at this tournament, not just make up the numbers,” he added. “There is a real hunger. We know we can be tough to beat, but we have to get the balance right.
“We are ready to go. There is a little bit of tension building which is a nice feeling.
“This has done a lot for the country and it is fantastic to see how many people are behind us from all sections of the community.”
Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill has a fully fit squad to choose from for the clash in Nice, with Kyle Lafferty expected to be fit to lead the line after suffering a scare with a groin injury earlier in the week.
Poland winger Kamil Grosicki is unlikely to recover from an ankle injury in time, but Jakub Blaszczykowski is likely to play.
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