Poland captain Robert Lewandowski failed to score in his first World Cup game when his penalty kick in the second half was saved in a scoreless but entertaining draw with Mexico on Tuesday at Stadium 974.
Hector Moreno tugged on Lewandowski’s shirt in the penalty area 11 minutes into the second half, resulting in a penalty awarded to Lewandowski after a VAR review. However, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa blocked the shot of the Polish striker, who has never scored at the World Cup.
“Today, I feel bad for Robert because I know how badly he wanted to score at the World Cup,” said Poland’s coach, Czeslaw Michniewicz. “He has not been successful thus far, but I am hopeful that he will be able to capitalize on the upcoming opportunities.”
In a temporary stadium constructed from 974 recycled shipping containers and overlooking the Arabian Gulf, a sea of green-clad Mexican supporters outnumbered their Polish counterparts and made their presence felt in the 40,000-seat venue.
Alexis Vega’s header went wide at the half-hour mark, and two minutes later, Jesus Gallardo was denied an open goal by a last-ditch tackle when he had the goal at his mercy.
Henry Martin struggled to capitalize on chances in the box without Raul Jimenez leading the attack. Mexico dominated possession, but Raul Jimenez’s absence hindered the attack.
At the other end, Poland was unable to involve Lewandowski, who has scored 18 goals for Barcelona this season, as neither goalkeeper was required to make a save in the first half. Lewandowski has scored 18 goals for Barcelona this season.
Poland was losing the midfield battle, so coach Czeslaw Michniewicz made a substitution at halftime by replacing Nicola Zalewski with Krystian Bielik, allowing Piotr Zielinski to play in an advanced position.
Poland began creating opportunities and eventually won a penalty kick, which Lewandowski shot low, but Ochoa dived to his left to deny the captain.
Michniewicz stated that penalty kick saves such as Lewandowski’s are inevitable. “Since I can remember, great players have not been scoring at great tournaments. I recall Zico, Socrates, Michel Platini, and Diego Maradona from those championships, as well as numerous other great footballers.”
Not to be outdone by Ochoa’s goalkeeping prowess, Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny demonstrated his credentials moments later when he reacted quickly to change direction and deny Martin’s on-target glancing header.
With 20 minutes remaining in the second half, Mexico coach Gerardo Martino replaced Martin with Jimenez, but the Wolverhampton Wanderers forward, who is returning from a lengthy injury layoff, failed to record a shot on goal.
“We were dominant in the first half, and we deserved a lead at the break,” Martino said, adding that his team became “predictable and cautious” as the match progressed. The penalty was a mistake on our part, but based on our performance in the first half, I believe we should have won the game.
Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina, one of the tournament’s pre-tournament favorites, to earn the group’s top spot.