Poland captain Robert Lewandowski said his penalty in the 2-0 playoff victory over Sweden on Wednesday was one of the most difficult of his career as World Cup qualification was on the line.
Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski and Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski fired second-half goals as Poland beat Sweden in a competitive fixture for the first time since the 1974 World Cup to book a spot at the event in Qatar.
"I said during the news conference that it was time (for us) to win and that we'd do it. So we did," Lewandowski joked while speaking to Polish TV .
"It was one of, if not the most difficult penalty in my life ... (I knew) the weight of those seconds before I ran up to the ball.
"Of course I wanted to focus on execution, but I was realising what was at stake in this game, what was at stake in that penalty. It was one of the emotionally tougher penalties of my career, definitely," he added.
Poland, which battled to contain an attacking Sweden side in the first half, was also indebted to Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny who pulled off a string of fine saves.
"We came out for the second half with some nice energy and (that's when) I started to believe that we could win this match," Szczesny said.
"The Swedes gifted us both goals a little bit. A penalty out of nothing, then they lost the ball. But you have to take advantage of such situations.
"The margin for error in such matches is very small, and today they allowed themselves two mistakes and paid for them," he added.
- Andersson rues missed chances as Swedes miss out on World Cup -
Sweden manager Janne Andersson made no attempt to hide his disappointment as his side spurned plenty of chances en route to a 2-0 defeat away to Poland that sees the side miss out on this year's World Cup in Qatar. The Swedes created a dozen decent opportunities but could not find a way past Szczesny in the Polish goal.
"I'm enormously disappointed, hugely disappointed," Andersson repeatedly told reporters.
"We played a match where we have good control of their attacking play and we create enough to take the lead, but we didn't," he added.
Sweden's Jesper Karlstroem mistimed a challenge in the box early in the second half and bundled Grzegorz Krychowiak to the ground for the penalty before a mix-up between Kristoffer Olsson and Marcus Danielson allowed Zielinski to score a second.
"It feels like a cheap penalty, a half-stupid situation, and we let in 2-0 through an individual mistake. We create enough to take the lead, it is a vital part of football," he added.
Sweden has struggled to score in recent games, needing an extra-time goal by Robin Quaison to beat Czech Republic 1-0 in the playoff semifinal last Thursday after failing to net in its last two World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Spain.
"Today we didn't score goals and it cost us. I am extremely disappointed with the result and that there will not be a World Cup (for us)," Andersson said.
The 59-year-old coach sent on Sweden's record scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the final 10 minutes but despite his presence the side could not put the Polish defence under any meaningful pressure as it slumped to defeat.
"Everyone is disappointed," the 40-year-old striker said. "That's normal when losing. Everyone wants to play in the World Cup, but unfortunately that won't happen," he added.
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