Poland and Senegal take on each other in a highly important clash set to determine their paths later on.
Spartak’s home Otkrytiye Arena is the venue.
Poland and Senegal take on each other for the first time in their history.
Both sides were dominant in their respective qualifying groups.
Both teams will come into the game in high spirits after winning their final warm-ups before the competition.
We expect a tight encounter with Senegal’s defensive block being able to stop Polish attack led by Robert Lewandowski.
Aliou Cisse became the first Senegalese man to have led the national team at the World Cup. The lone previous appearance at the biggest stage event saw the team go as far as reaching the quarter-final 16 years ago in Korea/Japan.
The Lions of Teranga possess a similar (why not say even greater) talent to the 2002 side with the like of Sadio Mane leading the line in a manner El Hadji Diouf did back then. The current head coach Cisse was an important part of that squad in the center of the park and his experience at the 2002 tournament could be of a huge help now that he leads the team from the bench.
Nevertheless, Senegal will have anything but an easy task to go past the likes of Poland ion their opener. Adam Nawalka’s side travelled to Russia with high expectations following the impressive run the team had two years ago at EURO in France where they were unlucky to suffer a quarter-final elimination to the latter champions Portugal on penalties.
Poland went on to impress in the WC Qualifications as well topping their respective group ahead of the likes of Denmark, Romania and Montenegro with 8 wins in 10 matches. Robert Lewandowski inspired such dominance netting as many as 16 goals in the process, one more than Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts of the European qualifying zone.
This will only be the first ever head to head encounter between Poland and Senegal.
The European hopefuls are regarded as slight favourites by the bookies here. Their results from recent years indeed look impressive, but Nawalka does not have a player who has enjoyed a particularly successful season in his ranks.
Jakub Blaszczykowski missed most of the season through injury for Wolfsburg (returned only in mid-April), Grzegorz Krychowiak lacked minutes on the pitch for West Bromwich Albion, while Szczesny and Milik barely even featured Juventus and Napoli in Serie A.
All eyes will thus be on Robert Lewandowski, but his job as a lone striker between the rock-solid defensive line of Senegal’s will by no means be an easy one. The Africans are well capable of forming a strong defensive block with the six-man defense (four at the back and two defensive midfielders in the likes of Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gueye) led by Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
The Lions of Teranga conceded on only one occasion in last four friendlies and they looked well-balanced even in a narrow 2-1 defeat to Croatia earlier this month. Poland did notch an impressive nine-goal tally in last three friendlies and they do have a world-class predator in their ranks, but we just don’t expect this to be a high-scoring affair. The importance of the game is just huge and teams are generally of a similar quality looking across the pitch.
This should end in favour of Senegal in a 2-1 win.