Moscow: Senegal will aim to repeat the heroics of their 2002 team when they start their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign against a confident Poland in a Group H match at the Spartak Stadium here on Tuesday. While Senegal are making their comeback to the World Cup after their 2002 show till the quarter-finals, Poland are in Russia after failing to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 editions.
Both teams have a lot of pace in their attacks. While Bayern Munich star Lewandowski will again be the main man for Poland in the upcoming tie despite experiencing a disappointing season in the Champions League with Bayern Munich, their opponents will bank on Liverpool attacker Sadio Mane.
Mane scored 17 times while qualifying through Africa and 10 times in the Champions League. Lewandowski set a European qualification record with 16 goals in 10 matches to secure Poland’s place in Russia. The main worry for Poland is that Lewandowski lacks support as the team lacks star players. But the team have Rafal Kurzawa, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Piotr Zielinski, who are capable of keeping Lewandowski supplied with little chances.
“They (Senegal) are very good on counter-attacks – when they attack, they do it really quickly. They don’t waste time when they have the ball. They try to get forward and fire off shots as quickly as possible. They are a really dangerous team,” Lewandowski was quoted as saying by FIFA.com.
The other important player for Poland is Napoli’s young midfielder Piotr Zielinski, who scored four goals in this season’s Serie A. Mane, on the other hand, have plenty of match-winners around him like Moussa Sow, Diafra Sakho, M’Baye Niang, Mame Biram Diouf and Keita Balde. However, if these players misfire, Stoke City’s Mame Diouf or Ismaila Sarr can act as their covers.
The eight provide different options, with Sow, providing a leading aerial presence, Sakho dangerous with his back to goal, Mame Diouf a tireless worker and the young and pacy Sarr is able to open space along the wings, where M’Baye Niang can also perform. At the back, Napoli defensive powerhouse Kalidou Koulibaly offers security and determination.
Having a wealth of such options has seen head coach Aliou Cisse juggle his options in the run up to the World Cup. Goalless draws against Bosnia-Herzegovina and, especially, Luxembourg, where Senegal mustered 13 shots without finding the back of the net, imply he is yet to find the right formula.
So in the upcoming match Poland, who got knocked out in the group stage in their last two appearances at the World Cup — 2002 and 2006 — will aim to go further while Senegal will look to start on a positive note, registering a win here.