Euro 2024: Poland has an option on Lewandowski for must-win game against Austria

BERLIN (AP) — Poland faces Austria on Friday in a game both have targeted as a must-win after losing their European Championship openers, and with a stronger opponent to follow. The fitness of Robert Lewandowski is the key question for Poland which led but lost to the Netherlands 2-1 without him. Austria was beaten by France 1-0. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— When Poland played Austria in their second group game at Euro 2008 the bizarre outcome was criticism by the Polish prime minister of English referee Howard Webb, who received threats online. Webb awarded Austria a stoppage-time penalty to get a 1-1 draw that was the only point each team got before failing to advance. The prime minister that day, Donald Tusk, returned last year to lead the national government.

— Austria and Poland meet 16 years later having, again, lost their first games. Austria as co-host in 2008 failed to reach the group stage, as did Poland as co-host four years later. Euro 2012 was the last 16-team tournament before it was expanded to 24 which means four third-place teams have to advance to the knockout rounds.

— Poland coach Michał Probierz was a contender for best dressed person in the dugouts with his three-piece suit, centered on a beige check waistcoat, for the opening game. He is tailored by a team sponsor and there should be more fine threads on show on Friday in his “Peaky Blinders” style. Poland great Zbigniew Boniek suggested Probierz should win then “come to the next match in a tailcoat.”

Team news

— About Lewandowski. The Poland captain and talisman damaged a thigh muscle in a pre-tournament warmup against Turkey and sat out the Netherlands game, where his replacement Adam Buksa scored. The Barcelona forward was back in training on Tuesday, and was cheerful while cycling on Wednesday, though he seems unlikely to be at 100% if he starts.

— Austria has no major injury concerns.

By the numbers

— Poland finally gets to play a tournament game at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. At the 1974 World Cup hosted by West Germany, the standout Polish team played seven games but none in Berlin, which will host the Euro 2024 final. Poland beat Brazil 1-0 in the third-place game 50 years ago in Munich’s Olympic Stadium which also hosted the final.

— Austria gets about 30 fewer hours of recovery time than Poland from the Euro 2024 schedule. Austria faced France on Monday evening after Poland played the Netherlands on Sunday afternoon.

— Losing to France ended Austria’s seven-game unbeaten run since a 3-2 loss to Belgium in their qualifying group.

What they’re saying

— “We’re well aware we can lose against France — we’re not unrealistic dreamers. We know the situation now. We have to beat Poland to progress.” — Austria coach Ralf Rangnick.

— “After the opening game, we should hold our heads high and look to play well in the second game.” — Poland forward Adam Buksa.


AP Euro 2024:

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