Poland will kick off their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign against Senegal on Tuesday; THT looks at three players who could have a major say in the outcome of the game.
Poland and Senegal will go head to head in the second game of Group H in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow.
Both the nations will be returning to the World Cup finals after a lengthy absence, with Poland having missed the last two editions of the tournament, while Senegal the previous three. Both the teams head into their tournament opener on the back of indifferent results in friendlies and will be hoping to kick things off with a win.
Given the attacking talents at disposal in both the Polish and the Senegalese squads, there could be a highly entertaining affair in the offing for the fans. And ahead of the match, here at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at three players who could prove to be the difference makers on Tuesday;
One of the most devastating attackers in the Premier League, Sadio Mane is coming on the back of an excellent 2017/18 season with Liverpool and will be hoping to carry that form into the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The 26-year old finished last season with a tally of 20 goals and 9 assists, playing a huge role in Liverpool’s run to the finals of the UEFA Champions League. His exploits with the Merseyside outfit have piqued the interest of European champions Real Madrid, who are keen on signing him this summer. And a strong campaign in Russia, could see his stock rise further.
Mane, so far, has appeared 51 times for the Lions of Teranga and has found the back of the net on 14 occasions. With his pace and direct running, the 26-year old can cause problems to any defence in the world if he gets going. Mane hasn’t been able to score in his last four international appearances, but that could be set to change when he faces Poland on Tuesday.
The 29-year old Bayern Munich striker has been the cornerstone on which this Poland side is being built by manager Adam Nawalka. Set to make his FIFA World Cup debut, Lewandowski is without a doubt one of the most feared centre-forwards in the game currently and will be hoping to make a mark on his World Cup bow.
A primary summer transfer target for Chelsea, Lewandowski had another mind-boggling campaign with Bayern, as he bagged a whopping 41 goals in 48 appearances across all competitions, scoring at an exceptional rate of one goal every 91.67 minutes. The Poland captain was also the leading goalscorer in the UEFA Qualifiers as well, as he netted 16 times in 10 games, including three hat-tricks, bettering Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s tally by a solitary goal.
With 55 strikes in 95 international appearances, Lewandowski is the highest goalscorer ever for Poland and they will once again be counting on him to deliver on the biggest stage in world football this summer. After disappointing performances in the UEFA Euro 2012 and 2016, where he could muster up only a single goal on both occasions, Lewandowski too will be raring to go.
While Poland will be looking up to Lewandowski to score the goals, Senegal will be counting on Napoli’s rock-solid centre-back and reported Manchester United target Kalidou Koulibaly to stop the Polish forward from finding the back of the net at the Spartak Stadium.
Nicknamed ‘K2’, the 26-year old man-mountain has been a rock at the back for Partenopei and has played a key role in their transformation into one of Serie A’s top sides in recent years. Koulibaly featured in all but three Serie A games in the 2017/18 campaign for Napoli, scoring 5 goals and setting up one more in the process, as they fell just short of winning the league title.
An imposing presence at the back, Koulibaly backs it up with impressive game awareness and intelligence, ensuring very little gets past him. Capped 23 times for Senegal, the 26-year old also possesses great composure and technical abilities that allow him to play out from the back, making him an excellent all-round centre-half. The contest between him and Lewandowski will make for a highly enticing battle on Tuesday.