Poland and Senegal are returning to the FIFA World Cup after a long hiatus and will be hoping to mark their return with a win at the Spartak Stadium on Tuesday.
Poland and Senegal will face off against each other for the first time ever, in the Group H encounter of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Poland are coming back to the main event of the FIFA World Cup for the first time after 2006, when they failed to get past the group stage. They made it through to the competition on the back of a highly impressive qualifying campaign, topping Group E of the UEFA Qualifiers. Poland have won two of their last three fixtures leading up to the competition.
The White and Reds’ best result in a FIFA World Cup remains the third place that they achieved way back in 1974 and 1982. Having led Poland to the 8th spot in FIFA World Rankings, manager Adam Nawalka will be hoping to inspire his team to achieve significant progress in Russia.
Senegal missed out on three consecutive FIFA World Cups, following their surprise quarter-final run in the 2002 edition on their tournament debut. However, the Lions of Teranga are back in the 21st edition of the quadrennial extravaganza, having topped Group D of the CONCACAF qualifiers and will be hoping to repeat the heroics from their last appearance.
Currently occupying the 27th place in the FIFA Rankings, Senegal have won just one and lost one of their last five fixtures in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the Group H encounter.
Team News and Tactics
Defensive mainstay Kamil Glik is ruled out of the contest, as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury. He is expected to be ready for Poland’s final group game against Japan. Although the manager, Adam Nawalka, recently tried a 4-4-2 setup, pairing star man Robert Lewandowski with Arkadiusz Milik, he is likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that has yielded him a lot of success.
In goal, Wojciech Szczesny is the favourite to start ahead of former club teammate Lukasz Fabianski. He will be protected by a back four comprising of Lukasz Piszczek and Maciej Rybus as the full-backs on the right and left side, with Southampton youngster Jan Bednarek at the heart of the defence along with Michal Pazdan.
The full-backs will raid forward at every given opportunity, but will need to exert care as they will be going up against a dangerous attack comprising of Sadio Mane, Keita Balde Diao, etc.
Grzegorz Krychowiak will take up one of the two slots in the middle of the park and look to act as the link between the defence and attack. He will be partnered by a talented box-to-box midfielder in the form of Karol Linetty.
The experienced Jakub Blaszczykowski will provide the width from the right-flank, while Hull City’s Kamil Grosicki will look to do the same from the opposite wing. Piotr Zielinski will slot into the No. 10 role for Poland and look to pull the strings to try and create chances for lone striker and captain Robert Lewandowski, who will be the White and Reds’ biggest threat in attack.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Piszczek, Bednarek, Pazdan, Rybus; Krychowiak, Linetty; Blaszczykowski, Zielinski, Grosicki; Lewandowski;
42-year old manager Aliou Cisse has used a fluid 4-4-2 system recently, with the wide players interchanging roles along with one of the forwards, which renders Senegal unpredictable and dangerous in the final third, owing to the rich talent of attacking players within their ranks.
The manager rotated goalkeepers Abdoulaye Diallo and Khadim N’Diaye in the warm-up games, but is likely to stick with the latter going into the first match of the tournament, owing to the fact that Diallo was involved sparsely during the season.
Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly will form the crux of their defence and is likely to be partnered by Salif Sane ahead of Kara Mbodji. The unstoppable Lewandowski going up against man-mountain Koulibaly will be a contest worth watching and will have a major bearing on the result of the game. Lamine Gassama and Youssouf Sabaly will start as the two full-backs.
Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye is a mainstay for the Lions of Teranga in the middle of the park and that is not likely to change on Tuesday. He will be assisted by Alfred N’Diaye in his backline screening duties, meaning Stoke City’s Badou Ndiaye is likely to miss out, along with West Ham United’s Cheikhou Kouyate.
Ismaila Sarr, a highly talented, versatile and pacey attacker is likely to get the nod on the right-flank, while AS Monaco’s Keita Balde Diao will start on the left wing.
Liverpool’s star man, Sadio Mane, who is coming on the back of a 20-goal season, will start upfront and keep switching positions with either of the wingers. Diafra Sakho will start as the other centre-forward. With so much pace and natural flair in the attacking ranks, expect Senegal to cause serious problems to the Polish defence.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): K. N’Diaye; Gassama, Sane, Koulibaly, Sabaly; Sarr, A. N’Diaye, Gueye, Keita; Sakho, Mane;
- Poland have not met an African team at the finals since 1982 when they drew 0-0 with Cameroon. This is their first ever contest against Senegal.
- Senegal are making their second appearance at the World Cup. Their previous appearance was in 2002 when they beat defending champions France on the way to making it as far as the final eight.
- None of Senegal’s 23-man squad play league football in their homeland and all but one, Guinea-based goalkeeper Khadim N’Diaye, play for European clubs, including seven in England and seven in France.
- Jakub Blaszczykowski will be making his 100th appearance for the Poland national team if he features on Tuesday. The 32-year old will go level with Grzegorz Lato as the player with the second-highest number of appearances for the White and Reds.
Player to watch
Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
One of the most lethal marksmen in the game currently, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski has been at the forefront of their recent rise in world football.
The 29-year old, who is the highest goal-getter for the country, with 55 goals from 95 appearances, led the way for the team during the qualifiers, bagging 16 goals in 10 games, finishing as the leading goalscorer in the qualifiers, ahead of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He will be Poland’s biggest drawing card going into the tournament in Russia.
Poland 2-2 Senegal
Given the attacking talent that will be on display in Moscow on Tuesday, goals are a guarantee. Both teams have plenty of riches going forward while not inspiring a lot of confidence at the back. Expect it to be an open game, with a lot of chances being created from either sides. And we at The Hard Tackle, predict Poland and Senegal to dish out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Spartak Stadium.