Lato without Gadocha, I kept thinking as Poland played Peru is like Laurel without Hardy, Simon with Garfunkel, Burns without Allen.

Grzegorz Lato has been plowing a brave and largely lonely soccer furrow for Poland in this World Cup, thinking no doubt the while about the last World Cup when the deadly left winger Robert Gadocha, now playing before minuscule crowds in Chicago, was there to keep him robust company.

There was another celebrated absentee in this game at Mendoza, Jan Tomaszewski, the massive Posish goalkeeper, sidelined in favor of the younger Zygmunt Kukla.

In 1973, Tomaszewski came to Wembley Stadium in north London and, with an extraordinary combination of courage, agility, recklessness and sheer good luck, defied an English attack which overplayed the Polish defense. The result was a 1-1 draw, and Poland thus qualified for the 1974 World Cup. A famous English coach, Brian Clough, went on television that night and called Tomaszweski a clown.

The "clown" had the last laugh when he played superbly in the '74 World Cup finals, helping Poland take a well deserved third place. But his coach, Jacek Gmoch, rather obscurely blamed him for Poland's unlucky defeat last week by Argentina, saying he had been upset by the crowd at Rosario, where spectators virtually breath down the goalkeeper's neck.

From the bench Tomazsweski must have admired the Peruvian keeper Ramon Quiroza yesterday as he made a fine save from Andrzej Szarmach's free kick.

There was nothing even Quiroga could do about Szarmach's splendid diving header, which gave Poland the lead after an hour, but he made another admirable save from the endlessly active Lato, who had created Szarmach's goal. That goal was enough to win the game.

Now the Poles, a much better-looking team when they and their coach, Gmoch, know they have to go forward rather than backward, play Brazil in Mednoza on Wednesday. I doubt if Brazil will beat them, any more than in the third-place match of 1974, when Lato got the only goal and became the leading scorer of the competition.

West Germany was considerably quicker to score a sucker-punch goal against the Netherlands yesterday at Cordoba in two minutes, while Italy took the lead against Austria at Buenos Aires in 14.

Helmut Schoen, West Germany's greatly maligned coach, pulled an ace from his sleeve in the shape of the little right winger Rudi Abramczyk, who had not played since the opening game against Poland. There had been no hint he would be chosen, and here he was, scoring that early goal.

At River Plate, Paolo Rossi's goal for Italy was a beauty. First, the boyish little center forward cheekily crossed his feet to flick the ball to Franco Causio. Dashing on to the immediate "wall" pass, he outpaced the big, blond, Austrain sweeper, Erich Obermayer, and slid the ball home. It looked odds on the Obermayer would be three first, but as Ron Greenwood, England's team coach, remarked , Rossi has the virtue of being faster at the end of his runs than at the beginning.

The Austrians were surprisingly untroubled. Making several changes from the team demolished by Holland, dropping the hard-shooting Kurt Jara from midfield, they played with pleasing speed and flexibility. Hans Kranki, their star forward, no longer wastefully anchored himself to the left wing, while Robert Sara was a buoyantly adventurous right back. Indeed, he almost tied the game just before halftime after playing a fine one-two with Josef Hickersberger.

Holland, in the meantime, tied West Germany with a goal by the exuberant Arie Haan - the man Dutch Coach Ernst Happel had previously dropped. A great day in Cordoba for stones that the builder rejectd.

Dieter Mueller scored to give West Germany the lead but Holland equalized through Willie Van Der Kerkhof, making it 2-2.

Italy won well enough in the end, but it has problems. In midfield, Benetti played like an exhausted man. Can he be risked on Wednesday, against the vigorous Dutch? And what of Graziani? He is strong fast and fresh and must surely find a place - but whose? Italy can hardly leave out the electric Rossi, who was preferred to Graziani originally.

Italy and the Netherlands have three points, West Germany two, Austria none. Since Austria has seven goals against three while Italy has scored one and conceded none, a draw on Wednesday would take Holland to the final. Will the Dutch close up in defense against the Italians, or continue their new policy of attack?

The Dutch are still a more moderate team than Italy. Their admirable sweeper, Rudi Krol, is far more ready to attack than Italy's Scirea, so cautious today after one good early center.