Poland and Senegal play on the final day of matchday one at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and it looks set to be an absolute goal fest with both teams possessing plenty of firepower upfront.
PREDICTED POLAND LINEUP (4-2-3-1): Szczęsny; Piszczek, Pazdan, Bednarek, Rybus; Krychowiak, Linetty; Grosicki, Zieliński, Błaszczykowski; Lewandowski
COACH: Adam Nawałka
PREDICTED SENEGAL LINEUP (4-4-2): N’Diaye; Sbaly, Koulibaly, Mbodji, Gassama; Niang, Gueye, Kouyaté, Baldé; Mané, Sakho
COACH: Aliou Cissé
Group H has plenty of attacking talent, and Poland’s attack is definitely up there with the best. Robert Lewandowski will obviously be the focal point of attack. The team has plenty of experience amongst it mixed with a number of exciting younger talents. The key for this team will be more than just Lewandowski burying chances, but how they get the ball to him to create those chances.
One man who might be relied on to pull the strings in midfield is Napoli’s Piotr Zieliński. The 24-year-old has been a crucial member of Napoli’s midfield this past season, and he will need to contribute just as much to his country’s cause in its opening match.
Poland will use plenty of width in its attack, with both the wingers and fullbacks flying down the wings. What often can happen is Poland’s wingers will tuck inside, allowing the fullbacks to get into forward positions. What this does it is allows more players in the middle if they wish to play some combinations, or they can whip in a cross but with more targets in and around the box.
However, that tactic depends heavily on how the two anchoring midfielders decide to play. If both go up and patrol the edge of the opposition box, then Senegal can hit them on the counter (and they have pace in abundance). We saw what Mexico did to a team that used that tactic of moving fullbacks high up and the wingers tucking in, so if Poland decide to go that route, they know what can happen as a result.
For Senegal, the key for them will be making sure they get the balance right in the middle and front thirds. They have the players to play either a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2, so their coach Aliou Cissé does have options at his disposal. Cissé is also just 42 years old, and as a manager, this could be a daunting gig.
Senegal’s primary weapon up front is Liverpool flyer Sadio Mané. We’re thinking that Senegal is going to be the team that looks to spring into the counter attack as opposed to trying to wear the other team down, so Mané will be critical in that game plan for Senegal.
The midfield is an interesting conundrum for this team. They have plenty of box-to-box and defensive midfielders, but no real No. 10. Idrissa Gueye is a workhorse in the middle of the park, making tackles left, right and center. Cheikhou Kouyaté will be more of a holding midfielder and work at providing a screen for the defence. If Senegal opts for a 4-4-2 formation (which is what we are thinking), then these two would be Senegal’s ideal pair.
PREDICTION: Poland 2 - 1 Senegal. Poland should dominate early proceedings, and some tactical naivety from Aliou Cissé in the Senegal dugout will prove costly as Poland take a two-goal lead in the opening hour. Senegal nick a goal with a bit of time to play but it is too little, too late.