WARSAW, Poland. November 18 (Interia) – For several days, there has been a strong wave of criticism toward Poland manager Paulo Sousa, who did not utilize neither Robert Lewandowski or Kamil Glik in the vital FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifier against Hungary.
According to Sebastian Staszewski of Polish news media Interia and his alleged sources, the request for the Polish national team captain not to appear in Monday’s game apparently came directly from… Lewandowski himself.
On Monday, Poland lost 1:2 in the final group stage qualifying game with Hungary, which as a result will not see the Bialo-czerwoni be seeded in the first match of the World Cup play-offs. After the defeat, major criticism had fallen on Paulo Sousa, who made the seemingly controversial decision. As announced per a PZPN presser, the Portuguese publicly declared that he had decided that the team leaders: Robert Lewandowski and Kamil Glik would not play at the PGE Narodowy on Monday, while Piotr Zielinski would sit on the bench. As a result, the Poles were defeated by a weakened Hungary team and lost the chance to be seeded in the World Cup play-off semi-final.
Now serious allegations have come forth from Interia’s Staszewski using apparent leaks from sources who wish not to be named, as it appears that Lewandowski allegedly himself asked Sousa not to be in the team for the game with Hungary. As expected, the captain’s decision was not popular with his teammates, who could not come to terms with it. To save the tense situation, Sousa decided to take all the blame on himself.
“Lewy” did not want to play with Hungary
From what Interia was able to find out, it is apparently Lewandowski who actually asked Sousa not to field him against Hungary. In the past, similar requests on the national team were made by Bayern Munich striker several times before, both during the tenure of Adam Nawalka and Jerzy Brzeczek which saw Lewandowski be dubbed the infamous nickname “Coach Lewy” by some supporters. Ultimately, Sousa agreed to Lewandowski’s request that he would not play against Hungary, but only under the condition that the captain should sit on the team bench for the game (despite the fact that he could not officially play because he was not registered in the match squad).
LEWANDOWSKI BENCH SCANDAL❓
Polish journalists are claiming that Robert Lewandowski was benched due to a decision that came directly from himself and his management team.
On the other hand, the official story is that it was a decision made by Paulo Sousa.
Which story is true? pic.twitter.com/n6g8Hwkq9T
— PSN Futbol (@PSN_Futbol) November 18, 2021
At the same time, Glik and his family were sitting in the VIP suite – the same place that Lewandowski would normally had spent the game too if not for Sousa’s own counter request. Of course, the reason that the veteran defender did not play was different, as Sousa had a desire to protect him before the first play-off fixture (Glik was threatened with suspension due to yellow cards).
The third absentee – Zielinski – just like “Lewy”: sat on the bench, but just after the half time break he then appeared on the pitch and introduced a breeze of quality to Poland’s game. However, it was not enough to beat the Hungarians.
Sousa took the blame
Lewandowski’s decision was understandably not likened by his teammates, who could not understand why their captain resigned from appearing in such an important game. This tense atmosphere can even be seen in the behind-the-scenes footage published by “Laczy nas pilka”, the PZPN’s social media channel, in which Sousa at one point during a team meeting says: “Today, everyone, including us, did not make the right decisions. Everyone.”
After the game, the coach decided to take all the blame on himself in order to divert attention from the Poland captain’s request. That was one of the reasons why he uttered the extremely controversial words: “It’s always easy to judge by the result, but I’m a person who is not afraid of difficult decisions. We have to trust our players to make them a step forward. I repeat again: I would make the same decision.”
Lewandowski called Kulesza
When the leaks by Interia appeared on the news that it was in fact Lewandowski who asked to be removed from the squad against Hungary, the anger from the Poland supporters was then diverted off Sousa and onto the team captain instead.
On Wednesday, Lewandowski decided to immediately react. According to Interia, he called the PZPN (Polish FA) president Cezary Kulesza sometime in the afternoon. In the phone call, he allegedly explained the reasons for his decision and revealed why he asked Sousa to be excluded from from the nation’s most important – as it turned out – game.
“Robert Lewandowski’s statement is PR gibberish for the naive. Everyone on the team knew the truth, that Robert didn’t want to play and they were all against it. He’s now trying to put the blame on Paulo Sousa to save his image.”
— PSN Futbol (@PSN_Futbol) November 18, 2021
“Lewy” was also supposed to declare that his attitude in playing on the national team had remained unchanged and – if only healthy – he is always at the full disposal of each national team coach.
“The decision was agreed with me”
The Bayern Munich striker also agreed with Kulesza that on Wednesday the PZPN social media channels would publish a public statement regarding Interia’s leaks. Less than an hour later, a long statement by Lewandowski appeared on the Twitter account of “Laczy nas pilka”.
In the statement, Lewandowski explains that “I signaled that by playing so many games and knowing my body, I might not be at the optimal disposition for both games. The coach rightfully did not want to underestimate the match against Andorra. Together we agreed that I would play in this match and in the event of a win, other players will get a chance against Hungary. The decision at the end always belongs to the coach, but I can confirm that it was something agreed upon with me.”
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