By Karolos Grohmann
EVIAN, France (Reuters) – World champions Germany have warned that there is more to their biggest Euro 2016 group rivals Poland than Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski.
The Germans, fresh from their impressive 2-0 win over Ukraine, take on their neighbors in Paris on Thursday, knowing the Poles also made a winning start in Group C with a 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland.
Poland are led by captain Lewandowski, who scored 13 goals as his country became the highest-scoring team in the qualifiers with 33. They finished second in their qualifying group, a point behind the Germans who they beat for the first time ever.
‘Lewa’ earned his second Bundesliga top scorer title this season after netting 30 times in the league and securing the domestic league and Cup double with Bayern Munich.
“The Poles are very good opponents but if we pull our game through I am confident we will win,” defender Jerome Boateng told reporters.
“But we have to be careful. They have good forwards — and not just Lewandowski.”
The Poland captain did not score in their opening win, with 22-year-old forward Arkadiusz Milik, who also struck six times in the qualifying campaign, grabbing their winner against Northern Ireland.
“They have made a big leap in the past years, many players play abroad and more youngsters are coming up,” said Germany’s Polish-born forward Lukas Podolski.
“They are the most dangerous opponents in our group. I hope we will advance to the next round, with Poland in second place.
“They want more than just playing in the group stage. They have the quality to go beyond the round of 16.”
Germany coach Joachim Loew could have central defender Mats Hummels back fit, which would mean Shkodran Mustafi, who scored their opening goal against Ukraine, could return to the bench.
Loew may decide to bring in forward Mario Gomez, in place of attacking midfielder Mario Goetze who looked uncomfortable in the striker’s role against the Ukrainians.
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny picked up a thigh injury in the opening game but is expected to be fit to play.
The Germans may have lost to Poland in the qualifiers but for Lewandowski they remain the team to beat.
“Germany are in my opinion the favourites for the whole tournament,” Lewandowski said. “We know how strong they are at the moment but anything can happen.
“We have to remain calm and self-confident, just like against Ireland. No fear, no stress and if we get a chance we can make it. But we should not forget to enjoy ourselves.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ian Chadband)