Senegal sent Poland packing as they held on to their lead and crossed the finish line to take the lead in Group H, but who were the three shining stars from this clash?
Senegal took up a leading role in Group H with a resounding win over Poland. Protecting a two-goal lead Poland did find a way back into the game with a Grzegorz Krychowiak header, but that would not be enough to level with the Africans when the whistle blew.
Poland and Colombia were both thought to be group favourites but now suddenly find themselves in the bottom half of their group, also thanks to Japan’s win over the South Americans earlier in the day. Senegal however, became the first African nation at this tournament to win their opening fixture at this World Cup.
An own goal from Polish defender Thiago Cionek after an unlucky deflection off an Idrissa Gueye shot opened the scoring for the Africans, and a sound effort from M’Baye Niang doubled the lead. The Senegal team performed admirably but so did Poland in flashes, and we choose the three players that made the difference in the game.
We had predicted for big things from the big centre-back ahead of Senegal’s campaign, he was one of the players everybody had a keen eye on. And he duly delivered in what Senegal fans hope was not the last of his best performance for the team at this World Cup.
If Senegal wanted a leader at the back, it was Koulibaly, who dominated his defensive line with total confidence. Poland have some formidable players up front including the likes of Lewandowski and Milk, both of whom were kept quiet by Koulibaly.
He dominated on the ground, in the air and practically did not put a foot wrong anytime during the game. Till the Krychowiak goal, his defensive line looked solid. And, there still wasn’t any fault from the two central defenders for the Polish goal.
There were not many Polish contenders to feature in the top three performers, but except for Koulibaly, there were many performers in this Senegal side. There was Idrisa Gueye, who from midfield went on to create the shot that deflected of Cionek to open the scoring for Senegal, but it was another defensive star who cut here.
If Koulibaly was essential to protecting Senegal’s lead, Sane was imperial in defence and complemented his partner with perfection. He was heavily involved in killing off Polish moves to score. He towered over the Polish attackers and was for the opposition to create any chance of relevance.
Performances like these, from both of Senegal’s central defenders, will be needed all throughout the tournament and if the African side is to advance to or even beyond the quarterfinal stages they did in their only appearance at the World Cup in 2002. Senegal will soon become a force to be reckoned with in Russia if the centre-backs perform the way they did against Poland.
M’Baye Niang has always been the next big thing to come to football, but many thought he would never realise his talents in what could have been a promising career. Against Poland that talent everyone always spoke about was on display as Niang tormented the Polish defence with his running play.
He worked hard all throughout the game and started created some decent chances from early on in the game for his teammates. His hard work earned the goal he deserved, which was also the eventual match winner for his side.