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Group C watch: Poland take control of group thanks to remarkable Szczęsny

The keeper had potentially the best and most meaningful performance in his WC career.

Poland v Saudi Arabia: Group C - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

After battling it out with a tough Saudi Arabia side through the first half hour+ of the match, Poland finally broke through in the 39th minute on a point-blank missile by Piotr Zieliński off a great Lewandowski assist. The timing was even better, with 5 minutes to go before the halftime break, as both sides were threatening and looked poised to take the lead at any time.

Just three minutes later, however, a Bielik bonehead foul inside the box on Saudi striker Al-Shehri, with his back to the goal no less, gave Renard’s side the chance to even it up immediately. It was the Argnetina match hero, Al-Dawsari, who stepped up to take the PK, but Szczęsny had other plans in mind. Despite a very centered shot by the Saudis’ #10, the keeper dove perfectly to deflect the ball back towards the incoming players, where Al-Berik found the rebound. He immediately made his attempt, but Szczęsny again was there to deflect the ball over the goal for a corner. Two heroic saves in a matter of two seconds.

It was a key moment because it was the 1-1 and who knows where the match goes from there. We all remember what happened when they scored the 1-1 against Argentina. But that wasn’t the end of the Juventus keeper’s day.

Right on cue, around the same time as the Argentina match, Saudi Arabia struck again ten minutes into the second half, as a tangled sequence saw Bielik accidentally block a Kiwior clearance, landing the ball in the possession of Al-Dawsari, who attempted a back-heel shot due to his complicated position, and Szczęsny again was spot on, blocking it from point-blank range with his leg.

The Saudis didn’t give in and kept trying to pierce Poland’s goal. They looked dangerous and proved they can be creative with the ball, contrary to what the Argentina match showed, as they just retreated and played to keep Messi and company from scoring another. Their issue today was they couldn’t get their shots on goal after that back-heel play, but Poland definitely struggled to keep up. Mexico will have to keep a careful eye on that heading into their final group stage match on Wednesday.

This ultimately led to Al-Malki’s ball control mishap just in front of his box with a lurking Lewandowski, who charged at the sight of the loose ball, got there first, and put it away as the star striker usually does for the final 2-0 dagger in this one. That score didn’t only signify Poland’s victory, but was also Lewandowski’s first career World Cup goal. A very deserving accomplishment for such an accomplished striker.

It was an exciting match to say the least, and one that more than likely leaves Poland in control of the group heading into Wednesday, unless Mexico shock the world in a few minutes. Also, Messi’s chance to win a World Cup would if said result comes to be.