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Robert Lewandowski’s unselfishness makes Poland a legitimate threat

The Bayern Munich striker didn’t score against Germany, but he didn’t have to.

Germany v Poland - Group C: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

If you’d made a bet that Germany and Poland would deliver the Euros’ first 0-0 draw, you would have made a lot of money. Die Mannschaft is as deep and complete a team as any in the tournament, playing their typically elegant one-touch possession style. Poland stuffed those passes right back down their throats at the Stade de France, and even though he didn’t score a goal, a major part of Poland’s overall threat is one of the best strikers in the world, Robert Lewandowski.

Lewandowski hardly made an impression in the first half, but he didn’t need to. Poland’s big work was to swallow up the effectiveness of Germany’s passing attack. Łukasz Piszczek and Jakub Błaszczykowski took advantage of Germany’s lack of natural width, and Grzegorz Krychowiak shielded the center backs and forced the ball wide. Poland defended collectively and coherently, and Germany didn’t have an answer. Germany's expected goals map demonstrates just how much of a stranglehold Poland's defense put on the game.

Lewandowski, meanwhile, opened up in the second half. He may be one of the most prolific goalscorers in the world, but he doesn’t need to score to affect the game. On the ball, Lewandowski was extremely effective in holding up play when Poland counterattacked. Off the ball, he always sucked away two defenders, leaving space for Arkadiusz Milik to break into. Poland’s two biggest chances involved Lewandowski pulling German center backs out of position, leaving Milik with two sitters he failed to convert.

Poland wasn’t perfect, of course. They only managed seven shots in the whole game, and Lewandowski only had two of them, both blocked. Lewandowski needs to score in order for Poland to go deep in the tournament. After all, he bagged 42 goals for Bayern Munich last season, and was the top scorer in Euro qualifying with 13 goals. It’d be nice if he would find the back of the net in France. He isn’t the only option the team has, though. Germany was Poland’s toughest opponent in the group stage, and they executed their game plan to perfection. The only thing to be disappointed in was not converting the chances that came to them.

There is still an opportunity for Poland to win their group, which sets them up to face a third-placed team in the Round of 16. They won’t have to be so defensively minded in these next couple of games, and Lewandowski might feel a little freer going forward. Poland is playing extremely organized defense, and Lewandowski and Milik are playing very well together. If that continues, and Lewandowski starts scoring for fun, Poland could be poised for a Cinderella run.