Poland coach: "There is no formula to stop Messi"
"The world has been looking for ways to stop Messi for the past 18 years, and no one has found the formula. I don't think we will find the answer to this, as long as Messi is playing," Michniewicz said during the press conference before the match at Stadium 974.
Coach Czeslaw Michniewicz in the press conference before the match.
The current Polish coach added that he is a big fan of Messi and has visited the Camp Nou many times to watch the Argentine striker play when he was still at Barca. Michniewicz also compared stopping Messi to stopping legendary Italian downhill ski racer Alberto Tomba - the athlete who dominated the sport in the late 1980s and 1990s. "During the team meeting today, we said about Messi playing on the field like Alberto Tomba on the slopes. Messi can avoid everyone like Tomba did," Michniewicz shared.
However, the Polish team leader also believes his players can make it difficult for Messi by staying in the right position. Michniewicz explained: "If you give him space, Messi will score. You definitely need more than one person to stop Messi, and we are ready to do that."
Messi just scored an important goal against Mexico to save Argentina's hopes of going on.
The 52-year-old coach also appreciates the collective playing style of this match, because this is a match between Poland and Argentina, not a competition between Robert Lewandowski and Messi. Michniewicz emphasized: "This is not tennis, where they play individually and the fans wait for good serves or tires. Lewandowski needs teammates, and so does Messi."
Messi announced in early October that this year's World Cup in Qatar would be his final. If Argentina does not pass the group stage, today's match will be the last for the 35-year-old striker on the biggest football stage on the planet. According to Michniewicz, this will make Messi more desirable. "There were matches where Messi scored a lot of goals. But he said this is his last World Cup, and he will certainly be very ambitious," added the 52-year-old coach.
Michniewicz still considers Argentina as one of the brightest candidates, despite the South American representative's shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in the first round and the risk of being eliminated from the group stage. "When playing against Argentina, you have to be prepared for the possibility of conceding a goal in advance and avoid panicking when that happens," he stressed.
Argentina won six out of their 11 matches against Poland, but the European representative won the last time the two teams met in a friendly match in 2011. But Michniewicz underestimated this achievement. He said, "This is not a friendly match. This is a battle between two teams that still have the opportunity to progress."
All four teams in Group C are still in contention for a spot in the Round of 16.
Michniewicz also emphasized that Poland will not approach the game with a single tactic, which will change depending on developments on the field. He also wants the players to enjoy themselves instead of feeling stressed or under pressure when it comes to meeting Argentina at the World Cup, which may be considered a great honor.
In Group C, Poland is leading with four points, followed by Saudi Arabia and Argentina, which both have three points, and Mexico with only one point. In the last round today, Poland only needs one point to continue, while Argentina is forced to win to decide their own fate.