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Euro 2012 Player Profiles: Robert Lewandowski

Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski is Poland's best striker in decades, and could guide them to the knockout stages of the European Championship for the first time ever.

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Two Polish-born forwards have scored a ton of goals on the international level over the last decade. Unfortunately for Poland, both Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski have represented Germany on the world stage, but it appears they finally have a hero to call their own. His name is Robert Lewandowski.

Lewandowski was awarded with his first cap for Poland in September 2008 just after his 20th birthday. Lewandowski had just made a roughly €450,000 move from second division club Znicz Pruszkow to Ekstraklasa side Lech Poznan and was eager to prove himself to manager Leo Beenhakker. Poland were coming off of their first ever appearance in the European Championship in which they managed one point in three matches. Their lone goal was scored by Roger Guerreiro --- a Brazilian naturalized as a Polish citizen two months before the tournament.

His first challenge was a 2010 World Cup Qualifier against mighty San Marino. Lewandowski came on as a second half substitute and found the back of the net within twelve minutes. He saw time in two more qualifiers and a friendly in the year, and he scored his second international goal in the friendly against the Republic of Ireland. The 20-year-old was off to a great start with the national team, and he was off to a great start in his first season in the Ekstraklasa.

In his first season with Lech Poznan, Lewandowski featured in all thirty matches. He scored 14 goals in 30 league matches to lead Poznan in goals. In their run to winning the 2009 Polish cup, Lewandowski found the back of the net twice. There was no doubt that his first season of top flight football was a success.

Unfortunately for Poland, this form didn't carry over into World Cup Qualifying. In 12 total matches in 2009, Lewandowski only managed one goal. The solitary strike came against lowly San Marino in a 10-0 beating. Poland failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and Beenhakker was sacked as manager.

The 2009-2010 Ekstraklasa was huge for Lewandowski. He rebuilt his confidence and topped the scoring charts with 18 goals. This translated well over to his international form, and Lewandowski scored 6 goals in 12 friendlies in 2010. This opened the eyes of clubs in the major European leagues, and Lech Poznan saw their €450,000 investment returned when the sold Lewandoski to Borussia Dortmund for an estimated €4.5 million.

His first season in Dortmund found him behind Lucas Barrios. The Paraguayan international was coming off of a great first campaign in European football where he scored 19 goals in the Bundesliga campaign. Lewandowski still managed to appear in 33 of the club's 34 league matches and scored 8 goals. For a 22 year old in his first Bundesliga season, you have to consider this a success. Things were on the way up for Lewandowski. He was gearing up for his second Bundesliga season with hopes of challenging Barrios for the starting spot. The summer came around and Barrios headed off to South America for the 2011 Copa America. This is where Lewandowski caught the break he needed.

While Lewandowski was in Europe getting prepared for his second Bundesliga campaign, Barrios picked up an injury in the Copa America. It was announced that he would be out for some time, and Lewandowski was suddenly thrust into the starting spot. The Polish international scored goal after goal after goal in the Bundesliga and helped the club to their first double in club history winning the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal. Lewandowski finished with 30 goals in all competitions and was officially recognized as the Player of the Season by the Bundesliga.

With Poland being one of the host countries for the European Championship, there will be a lot of pressure heaped upon Lewandowski to perform for his country. He may be only 23, but Lewandowski has the ability and the gumption to to lead the Polish front line to a respectable appearance in Euro 2012.

Robert Lewandowski

National Team: Poland

Club Team: Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Age: 23

Position: Striker

Role in team: First choice center forward in likely 4-2-3-1

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