The long-awaited day finally came for Poland and Senegal, as they squared off today in Moscow for their World Cup 2018 debut. Both the Red-and-Whites and the Lions of Teranga joined the world tournament featuring one of their best generation of footballers ever.
When you think about Senegal, the first memory that comes to the mind of any football fan is the goal scored by Papa Bouba Diop against the defending World Champions of France in the opening match of World Cup 2002. The whole football planet was shocked, as that goal contributed to the French not making past the Group Stage, and many representatives from that golden generation of Senegalese ended up playing for some top European clubs.
The one with the most prolific, but also unstable career was the author of the winning pass during the match with the French – El-Hadji Diouf, who spent a few good seasons at Liverpool. Today, Diouf’s spot was covered by Sadio Mané, who is also playing in England with the Reds. But the true leader of the African side was Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli’s charismatic defender, who kept the team on balance from his center back position.
Those who were expecting a balanced game must have been very disappointed at the Poles, who totally lacked intensity in the first half, making spectators wonder whether they were actually playing a friendly game. The Senegalese were more solid, better positioned, faster, and more energetic overall.
In the 41st minute, Everton’s midfielder Idrissa Gueye approached the box and went for the shot. The ball was deflected by Thiago Cionek, who plays in Italy with SPAL, and goalkeeper Wojcech Szczesny could do nothing to avoid Senegal’s 0-1.
Polish manager Adam Nawalka decided to replace Jakub Blaszczykowski with the young Jan Bednarek at half time, switching from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 module, with the intention of having more control of the ball. However, by doing so, he also fatally exposed himself to Senegal’s dangerous counter-attacks.
However, Senegal’s second goal came at the end of a very controversial action: Grzegorz Krychowiak passed the ball backwards towards his goalkeeper, without realizing that Mbaye Niang was just getting back into the pitch after having been assisted by the doctors. The African player took advantage of that situation, and dashed pust a hesitant Szczesny to make it two for the Lions of Teranga. Protests by Robert Lewandowski and Krychowiak himself didn’t move referee Nawaf Shukralla.
In the last quarter of the game, the Poles finally started to push, especially when Dawid Kownacki step foot into the pitch. With the clock striking minute 83, a beautiful assist by Kamil Grosicki from a free kick, put Krychowiak in the condition of making it 1-2 with a powerful header. But that was the end of it, as Poland’s equaliser never came, and the match left the Red-and-Whites in a complicated situation already, as they approach their next – probably decisive – game with Colombia.
June 19, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool H
SCORERS: 38′ Cionek (P, o.g.), 60′ Niang (S), 86′ Krychowiak (P)
|POLAND (4-4-2): Szczesny; Piszczek (83’ Bereszynski), Cionek, Pazdan, Rybus; Blaszczykowski (46’ Bednarek), Krychowiak, Zielinski, Grosicki; Milik (74’ Kownacki), Lewandowski (Fabianski, Bialkowski, Jedrzejczyk, Glik, Goralski, Linetty, Peszko, Kurzawa, Teodorczyk) Coach: Nawalka|
SENEGAL (4-4-2): K. Ndiaye; Wague, Sané, Koulibaly, Sabaly; Sarr, Gueye, A. Ndiaye (87’ Kouyaté), Mané; Diouf (61’ Ndoye), Niang (76’ Konaté) (Diallo, Gomis, Mbengue, Mbodji, Sow, Ndoye, Sakho, Ndiaye, Keita, Gassama) Coach: Cissé
REFEREE: Shukralla (Bahrein)
NOTES: Attendance: 44190; Yellow Cards: Krychowiak (P), Sane, Gueye (S); Extra time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 4′