Euro 2024: Poland confident of Dutch win amid Lewandowski blow

Underdogs Poland put on a brave face ahead of Sunday's opening Euro 2024 clash with the Netherlands, insisting that victory was possible despite the absence of prolific striker Robert Lewandowski and a poor qualifying campaign.

The 35-year-old, who has scored 82 goals in 150 internationals, misses out with a hamstring injury but will be on the bench and is in contention for Poland's other Group D games versus Austria and France.

"It is a great pity Robert Lewandowski cannot help us in this match," midfielder and replacement captain Piotr Zielinski said on Saturday after a training session at Hamburg's Volksparkstadion where the game takes place.

"He is a world-class player and we will miss him. But whether it is me or the team mates, we will add something extra to achieve the goal, which is to win."

Coach Michal Probierz said his third game without Lewandowski was an opportunity for other players to shine during a generational shift which is underway in the Polish squad.

"There's nothing to hide, we will miss him. But other players will have to do what they can to get a result. I hope he will have other opportunities to play," he said.

Poland, who only scraped into the tournament via penalties in a playoff with Wales, are also missing striker Karol Swiderski due to an ankle injury.

"We have to change this team generationally. We will do whatever we have to do as a team to play well. We will not step back, we will progress," Probierz said.

"Everyone is saying we are going to lose, everyone is writing us off. But we have a team that wants to fight for each other."

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman admitted that Lewandowski's absence may alter his own team's plans for the match.

"Each individual player has his qualities, and it may change our approach somewhat. We know Lewandowski and his strengths," the Dutch coach told a press conference on Saturday.

Koeman expressed doubts about the injury reports this week, suggesting it might be a bluff, but was strongly rebuked by his Polish counterpart.

"I still expect them to play with two strikers and we have been analysing all their strikers. We know their attackers and what they can bring," Koeman said.

"It is always important to start well in the first game and win and if you can do it in the way you set out to do, then that's even better. It's very important that we get a good result."

The Netherlands have their own injury problems, with playmaker Frenkie de Jong ruled out of the tournament, but they are heavy favourites to defeat Poland.

"The Dutch team is a well-known brand in European football, it's a great national team, high in the FIFA ranking, but I don't think the ranking will play such a role tomorrow," Zielinski said.

"The qualifications were not exactly what we would have expected. The most important thing is that we are here and we will do whatever we can."

The Dutch meet France in their second group game on Friday in Leipzig before facing Austria.

"You have really strong nations at this tournament, and I think we are one of them. But we are not a big favourite," Koeman said.

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.