On another night of World Cup frustration, Robert Lewandowski missed a penalty as Poland settled for a goalless draw against Mexico in Group C.
The Barcelona striker was given the opportunity to score his first World Cup goal, with referee Chris Beath awarding the spot-kick after a VAR check, but he was denied by Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Poland offered little else in a scrappy match against Mexico, roared on by a boisterous crowd at Stadium 974. Mexico was far more fluid going forward, particularly down the flanks.
Mexico posed the greater threat in the first half, with Hirving Lozano serving as their primary attacking outlet.
After five minutes, the Napoli winger created the first notable chance, his curling cross from the right eluding Wojciech Szczesny, but Alexis Vega was unable to turn the ball home at the far post.
Soon after, in a rare Poland foray, Lewandowski set Jakub Kaminski free, but Mexico defender Jesus Gallardo did brilliantly to recover and smuggle the ball to safety.
After 26 minutes, Vega’s header drifted inches wide, and on the stroke of halftime, Szczesny bundled Jorge Sanchez’s cross-shot over the bar.
The second half began similarly, with Mexico dominating possession, but their arrogance almost cost them. Edson Alvarez dallied on the ball, causing it to ricochet into the area where Hector Moreno and Lewandowski grappled before collapsing to the ground.
Beach initially waved play on, but after consulting the monitor, he pointed to the spot where Moreno had a hold of Lewandowski’s shirt.
Ochoa, who has often been Mexico’s World Cup hero, came up trumps again, diving to his left to palm Lewandowski’s spot-kick to safety.
Mexico huffed and puffed without really testing Szczesny, save for a routine save to deny a flicked header from Henry Martin.
What does it imply? Argentina shock adds to the pressure
Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia finished the first day of Group C action on top of the pool after a 2-1 victory over Argentina.
This result, combined with the stalemate, increases the pressure on Poland and Mexico as they attempt to advance to the knockout stages.
Mexico manager Tata Martino will be disappointed with the outcome, if not the performance, which deserved better.
More Lewandowski’s World Cup disappointment
Even with his missed penalty, Lewandowski had a night to forget.
The penalty kick was his first meaningful touch in Mexico’s penalty area, and he was let down by a hard-working but sterile midfield.
The Barcelona man’s one moment of quality came early on with a nice turn and pass to release Kaminski, but his teammate was unable to convert.
Ochoa remains a genius.
Szczesny referred to Ochoa as a “genius” during the pre-match press conference, and he once again demonstrated his ability to shine on the biggest stage.
Ochoa, 37 years and 132 days old, became the second-oldest goalkeeper in World Cup history, after Egypt’s Essam El Hadary (45 years 161 days) in a 2018 match against Saudi Arabia.
His main moment came with that save, but he demonstrated all of his experience by dealing with Poland’s limited attack with ease.
- Mexico has gone three World Cup games without scoring for the first time since a three-game streak between 1966 and 1970.
- Poland has gone goalless in 17% of its World Cup games (6/35), the highest rate of any team that has played at least 15 games.
- Poland has failed to win their first World Cup game in each of their last seven appearances, dating back to 1978. (D4 L3). They have only scored one goal in those games.
- Only Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois (39) has made more World Cup saves than Ochoa since his first appearance in 2014. (37).
- Kamil Glik became Poland’s fifth player to win 100 caps, and at the age of 34 years and 292 days, he surpassed Jacek Zielinski to become the country’s oldest World Cup player.
What Comes Next?
On Saturday, both teams will be back in action. Mexico will face Argentina, still reeling from their stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia, while Poland will face Herve Renard’s upbeat side.