Lewandowski needs more protection, Poland coach says
By John Irish
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Referees must do more to protect Poland striker Robert Lewandowski who has been singled out for rough treatment at Euro 2016, Poland coach Adam Nawalka said on Wednesday.
Lewandowski has been fouled 16 times during the tournament, more than any other player and well ahead of the nine fouls committed on Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, who he faces in Thursday's first quarter-final.
"Given that he is one of the world's best strikers - in my eyes he is best number nine in world - he has been marked very tightly in this tournament," Nawalka told reporters.
"Sometimes he is double or triple-marked and rivals try to attack him," Nawalka told reporters.
He said his captain was physically up to the challenge, but believes referees are not doing enough to protect players from cynical and dangerous fouls.
"Referees should be paying attention to some brutal fouls in football in general in order to cut out situations where an opponent eliminates a particular player at any cost," he said, urging for more yellow and red cards.
Poland go into the game as slight underdogs having never previously progressed this far in an international tournament.
However, Nawalka dismissed suggestions that his team only had to nullify Portugal talisman Ronaldo to get through.
"Football is teamwork. There isn't one team in which one player decides the match," he said.
"I think Portugal present themselves very well as a whole team. We need to look at the all players, not just Ronaldo, if we want to win tomorrow."
To do that, Poland's forwards will need to improve on a record of three goals from their four matches in the tournament.
Lewandowski has now failed to score in his last seven internationals and strike partner Arkadiusz Milik, who got the winner in the group game against Northern Ireland, has missed a string of easy chances.
A prodigy of former striker Dennis Bergkamp at Ajax, Milik is confident the great Dutchman's guidance will soon pay off.
"I'm confident I can score and don't care what's said on the internet," he said. "The next match is a new chapter, so let’s focus on that."
He said the game would also mean that little bit more to him as he was facing his idol.
"I'm not hiding that a few years ago I was trying to learn from Ronaldo," Milik said.
"It's great for us to meet on the pitch and I will try to focus on myself, my team and not look up at him."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)