Senegal earned their first World Cup points since 2002 with a 2-1 victory over Poland on Tuesday afternoon.
Below are four talking points from the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow.
1. Cisse’s bold system pays off
Aliou Cisse has fielded criticism for being too conservative back in Senegal, but that cannot be levelled at him after his approach to this match. The former midfielder set his side up in a 4-4-2 formation here, with M’Baye Niang joining Mame Biram Diouf up front, and forwards Sadio Mane and Ismaila Sarr selected on the flanks. The inclusion of all four attackers was perhaps recognition of the fact Senegal often struggle for midfield creativity, and it paid off with a huge opening-game victory.
Senegal were not at their best in the first half, but it was they who did most of the running and looked to make things happen. Their opening goal was heavily deflected and their second was down to a major error from Grzegorz Krychowiak, but Senegal still deserved their win.
2. One-paced Poland lack ideas and imagination
Poland will lament the misfortune of Thiago Cionek’s own goal, but they only had themselves to blame for losing this match. Adam Nawalka’s side looked short of ideas and imagination throughout, barely fashioning any chances of note from open play and relying on an admittedly wonderful header from a set-piece to get on the scoresheet.
Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski was the man who looked to provide some sort of spark and invention, but even at 2-0 down Poland were far too pedestrian with their passing. They will have to play much better than this if they are to make it out of the group.
3. Lewandowski anonymous up front
Robert Lewandowski is Poland’s star man and chief goal-getter, with the Bayern Munich man finding the net 16 times in his country’s 10 qualifiers. He was hardly involved against Senegal, however, taking just two shots all game – and one of those was from a direct free-kick attempt. An even more concerning statistic is the fact he and second striker Arek Milik only exchanged a single pass before the latter was substituted in the 73rd minute.
Lewandowski is one of the most lethal centre-forwards around in and around the penalty area, but he did not receive the requisite service here. Poland must get more out of their main man against Colombia on Sunday.
4. Senegal take control of Group G
With Poland the top seeds in Group G, theirs was always likely to be the most open section of the first round. We have had to wait a few days for the eighth segment to get underway, but Tuesday’s encounter only served to heighten the sense that this is the most intriguing group of the World Cup.
Senegal and Japan occupy the top two spots ahead of the next instalment of games, with Colombia and Poland now forced to do the chasing. There is still plenty to play for but the Lions of Teranga will be delighted with their start, with one win from their next two matches likely to be enough for them to progress to the round of 16.
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