Soccer-Poland need Lewandowski in crunch clash with Austria

Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group D - Poland v Netherlands - Hamburg Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, Germany - June 16, 2024 Poland's Robert Lewandowski during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Poland are hoping record scorer Robert Lewandowski will be fit for their Euro 2024 Group D clash with Austria on Friday after slumping to a 2-1 defeat by Netherlands in their opening game.

Lewandowski picked up a thigh injury in a warm-up friendly against Turkey, and though he was named on the bench against the Dutch, coach Michal Probierz decided not to risk him.

"He (Lewandowski) will hopefully play against Austria, he's a very important player for us," Probierz told reporters in the wake of the defeat to the Dutch.

"We have shown (against Netherlands) that we can play football very well, we had our chances, and I told the players to keep their chins up, we can play against anyone ... all the players believe that we are moving in the right direction."

The Austrians also lost by a single goal in their first match against France thanks to an own goal from Max Wober, and Friday's showdown in Berlin has become a must-win game if either side want to progress at Euro 2024.

While Austria struggled to lay a glove on a dominant but wasteful French side, Lewandowski's replacement Adam Buksa gave his side a surprise lead against the Dutch before an equaliser by Cody Gakpo and 83rd-minute winner from Wout Weghorst ensured they left Hamburg empty-handed.

With France awaiting the Poles in their final group game and the Austrians set to face the Dutch, both sides know Friday's game represents their best chance of securing a victory that could send them through to the knockout stages.

"It will be a decisive match against Poland - whoever wins will have every chance of going through. We knew that it would be difficult and that the second match would be kind of decisive, we knew that before," Austria coach Ralf Rangnick told reporters.

The German-born coach said his team selection against Poland would not be influenced by the fact they had picked up five yellow cards against France.

"This next match is too important, so we won't think about bookings. We will put the best and strongest starting XI on the pitch against Poland," Rangnick said.

"We're looking forward now, we're looking to the future, and well do everything on Friday to win the match."

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)

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