Robert Lewandowski slotted home a second-half penalty as Poland booked their berth at the World Cup finals with a 2-0 win over Sweden in Tuesday’s play-off. After the Poland captain converted a spot kick, Piotr Zielinski put the game beyond doubt with a superb second goal for the hosts in Chorzow. “We had many problems before this match,” said Lewandowski.
“A lot of our players were injured, including me, I had a problem with my knee,” he added, having sat out Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Scotland.
“We suffered, but now we can celebrate. I am proud and happy.”
Veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic came on for the final 10 minutes for Sweden, but the 40-year-old striker was unable to influence the result and will miss out on a third appearance at a World Cup finals.
“Everyone is disappointed – that’s normal when losing,” Ibrahimovic told TV4.
“Everyone wants to play in the World Cup, but unfortunately that won’t happen.”
Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny played a key role in Poland’s victory with saves to deny Swedish playmaker Emil Forsberg in both halves.
Poland go into Friday’s draw for the group stages of the World Cup finals, from November 21 to December 18, after dominating the second half.
The Poles were awarded the crucial penalty just after half-time.
Attacking midfielder Sebastian Szymanski rolled the ball into substitute Grzegorz Krychowiak, who was fouled by Jesper Karlstrom.
The referee pointed straight to the spot and it was a trademark penalty kick by Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich ace casually arced his run, waited for Robin Olsen to move and then slotted the ball to the left of the Swedish goalkeeper.
It was his 75th goal for Poland and arguably one of his most important.
Zielinski put the result beyond doubt when he capitalised on a slip by Sweden defender Marcus Danielson and sprinted clear.
He slotted his shot past Olsen with 18 minutes left to spark wild celebrations from the home crowd.
Only a superb save from Olsen denied Lewandowski a second goal when the Poland striker was allowed a rare late chance in the area by the Swedish defence.
“Nothing went our way,” said Sweden coach Janne Andersson.
“But one has to make sure that things go one’s way – you can’t blame other circumstances.”
Ibrahimovic may have missed out on the World Cup, but refused to say whether he will retire.
“I hope to carry on as long as I’m healthy and can contribute,” he added.