Poland boss Michniewicz sympathises with Lewandowski after World Cup exit

Poland head coach Czeslaw Michniewicz can understand frustration around Robert Lewandowski's role after the team's World Cup exit.

A 3-1 defeat to France in the round of 16 on Sunday meant the end for Poland in Qatar, who went down to goals from Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe, who scored twice. Lewandowski netted a consolation penalty in stoppage time at Al Thumama Stadium.

This was Poland's first match in the knockout stage of a World Cup since 1986, when they lost 4-0 to Brazil in the round of 16.

Speaking at a press conference after the defeat, Michniewicz accentuated the positive of his team reaching the last-16 stage for the first time in 36 years, even though he was disappointed by the result.

"Unfortunately, this tournament is over for us. After 36 years, we reached the knockout stage but faced the current world champions. Congratulations to France," he said.

"We had good situations at 0-0 and I think many things changed before the break with [Giroud's 44th-minute] goal, the French became calmer and we became nervous.

"We knew we could still recover, we made some changes on the hour, another forward came on [Arkadiusz Milik] and had moments where we could score. [But then] Mbappe scored fantastically and not even Wojciech [Szczesny] could help us on this occasion, even though he had an excellent tournament.

"After some weeks and months I think we will be able to be look back and appreciate that we achieved something here we have not done in 36 years."

France 3-1 Poland momentum
France 3-1 Poland momentum

Michniewicz would not speak on his own future, with his contract reportedly up at the end of the tournament, and was also asked about 34-year-old Lewandowski, who scored his first two World Cup goals in Qatar but largely cut an isolated figure during Poland's campaign.

"He will decide his future himself," the coach said. "Looking at the way he is playing, I think he will be captain for years. Let's see if he'll play at the next World Cup.

"Expectations are always huge and the same is for Lewandowski. His situation is difficult. The style of Portugal or France is more beneficial for the forwards. We have a different style, we have some limitations and need to focus on others and close the gap of levels against [Lionel] Messi, Mbappe and other strikers."

He added of the Barcelona forward: "It is a difficult situation for Lewandowski, but I still think he will always score for the national team."

Mbappe was in electric form, becoming the youngest player to reach five knockout stage goals at the World Cup since Pele in 1958, and Michniewicz heaped praise on the rapid attacker.

"You don't have to be a coach to know what the biggest strength of France is, we always wanted to have two players on [Ousmane] Dembele and Mbappe," the Poland boss said.

"Giroud is so smart in the penalty area that he so often scores from the middle of the goal after work from the wingers. We were ready for that, but no coach has a recipe to stop Mbappe in the form he is in.

"A fantastic player, he harmed us today. I think he will be the one to take over as the best in the world for many years."