Robert Lewandowski at last scored a goal in a World Cup match Saturday, helping Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and boosting his team’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Lewandowski shed tears after scoring in the 82nd minute. He raced toward the corner with his arms outstretched, then slumped on the field as teammates rushed to congratulate him. He got up, rubbed his face, and blew a kiss to the crowd.
“Today everything I had inside, the dreams, the importance of the occasion, all those dreams from my childhood came through,” Lewandowski said. “It was so significant.”
One of the best forwards in the world, Lewandowski’s barren streak at the World Cup was somewhat puzzling. Now, in his fifth match at the tournament, it’s over.
Against Saudi Arabia, Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play after goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais’ initial block, then laid it back for Piotr Zielinski to knock in.
Poland was scrambling for long periods at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, as enthusiastic fans pushed the Saudi team forward in what seemed like a home game. The frustration was clear on Lewandowski’s face as Poland’s yellow cards mounted.
Saudi Arabia had a chance to equalize at the end of the first half, but Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty kick. He then blocked Mohammed Al-Burayk’s shot from the rebound.
Szczesny was also called upon in the second half, when Saudi Arabia created several good chances.
“There is some part during the game, you must be more efficient,” Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard said.
Renard’s team had 16 attempts at goal, twice as many as Poland.
“Like I said before, we are still alive,” the French coach said. “This is the most important.”
Poland will next face Argentina, while Saudi Arabia will meet Mexico in their last Group C games.
Australia 1, Tunisia 0
Mitchell Duke celebrated scoring Australia’s winning goal by forming a “J” with his fingers in a tribute to his son Jaxson, who was in the stands.
Coach Graham Arnold dragged injured winger Martin Boyle — on crutches — into the celebratory huddle as fans sang merrily along to Men at Work’s “Down Under,” blaring over the stadium speakers after the final whistle, in Al Wakrah, Qatar.
Later, Arnold wiped away tears.
It was an emotion-filled day for Australia, which beat Tunisia 1-0 Saturday for only its third win in 18 World Cup matches.
Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header.
“I actually was messaging some of my family, saying that I was going to score today, and I told my son that I was going to be able to share this moment with him and get that celebration,” Duke said. “I haven’t seen it yet but apparently he did it back to me from the stadium, which was a really special moment that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life.”
Australia hadn’t won at the World Cup since beating Serbia in 2010 and it means the Socceroos still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing to defending champion France 4-1 in their opening match.
In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia will play France and Australia will meet Denmark.