England cannot just focus on Robert Lewandowski in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier with Poland, Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has warned his players.
Lewandowski scored three times across Poland’s victories over Albania and San Marino last week to make it 72 goals for his country in 124 caps.
Picking up from where he left off in 2020-21, when setting a new record for the most goals ever scored in a single Bundesliga campaign (41), the prolific striker has been in fine form this term.
He has scored in all six matches he has played for club and country, and netted 10 times in total to strengthen his status as arguably the finest striker on the planet.
The Bayern Munich man was injured when Poland lost 2-1 at Wembley in March but is fit and firing for this latest encounter between Group I’s top two teams.
But while acknowledging Lewandowski’s quality in front of goal, Southgate insists there is more to Poland than just one player, as Paulo Sousa’s men showed in the reverse fixture six months ago.
“They played at Wembley without him and they gave a very good account of themselves,” he said.
“We only scored really late on in the game to win it, so of course it’s no different if we didn’t have Harry Kane or Raheem [Sterling], then they would be a big loss to us.
“The very top players for any team in the world are a loss if you don’t have them and every coach will feel the same way.
“But when we’re preparing the team to play against Poland, we’re not just looking at Lewandowski.
“We absolutely respect what he brings and we know what a threat he is, but they’ve got some other very dangerous players as well.”
Lewandowski’s run of goals includes scoring in 13 successive Bundesliga matches stretching back into last season – only the late Gerd Muller (16 in 1969-70) found the net in more consecutive league games.
The 33-year-old surpassed 300 goals for Bayern with his recent hat-trick against Hertha Berlin, reaching 301 in just his 333rd appearance for the German giants.
Again, that is a haul only bettered by Muller (566 goals in 607 matches) in Die Roten’s history.
Lewandowski’s goals in September’s qualifiers have helped Poland to two wins from as many games, but they remain five points adrift of group leaders England at the midway point.
England have yet to drop any points and will be as good as assured of a place at Qatar 2022 should they extend that winning run in Warsaw this week.
“Clearly with Hungary’s last result [losing 1-0 to Albania], Poland look like being the nearest challengers, which we probably thought when this group was drawn,” Southgate said.
“It’s a great incentive for us now. If we can go to Warsaw and win then we really are in control of the group.”
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