Who? Poland - Senegal
Where? Otkritie Arena, Moscow
When? June 19, 17:00 (CET local time)
Poland (Eden Roitfarb)
With the tournament being held at unpopular old rival Russia, Poland would hope to bring many fans to the nearby country that would push the team forward. Additionally, they also come with a loaded squad, notwithstanding some problems: Robert Lewandowski needs no introduction but is dealing with ongoing transfer rumors and his future in FC Bayern is unknown at the time. The Biało-Czerwoni need him focused and free-minded in order to succeed. Another issue is the condition of defensive anchor Kamil Glik, who injured his shoulder in training after attempting an irresponsible bicycle kick. Originally the belief was that he is going to miss the tournament, but currently his status is questionable.
Traditionally, a very strong position for the Poles is between the posts. The previous generation of Jerzy Dudek and Artur Boruc was succeeded by current top two Wojciech Szczęsny and
Łukasz Fabiański. The competition between them is ongoing for years as they played together in Arsenal and Legia Warszawa, and it is still widely unknown who coach Adam Nawałka will pick for number 1. Both have valid cases: Fabiański played more games this season and was great with Swansea City, but was ultimately relegated. Szczęsny played in a higher level for Juventus and was an understudy for legendary Gigi Buffon but recorded less appearances. To add confusion, both played 45 minutes each in last week’s friendlies, as it looks this decision would go down to the wire. Whichever goalkeeper will get the national responsibility, the Polish have a pair of gloves that can be trusted.
Senegal (Omri Tancman)
Senegal and Poland share some similarities. Both rely heavily on an attacking star player, Mane for Senegal and Lewandowski for Poland. Both present one of the fiercest midfields in their confederation. Poland won 63% of its challenges, which is the third best after Spain and Portugal in Europe. In Africa, Senegal was the most efficient tackling team with a winning rate of 61% of the tackles.
It might not be surprising that Senegal is very strong in tackling and in other attributes related to dedication and combat in midfield. This may result from the image shown by Senegal manager, Aliou Cisse. Cisse, Senegal’s captain in its first World Cup in 2002 was a strong commanding central midfielder. His charisma and know-how are well reflected in the toughness presented in the current Senegalese game.
But other than preaching for strength and commitment, Cisse’s role before Senegal’s match against Poland is far greater than tactical preparation and motivational speeches. Cisse was there. He led Senegal to its greatest win of all time against France and he encapsulates great memories from Senegal’s legendary campaign in 2002. Therefore, 16 years later and before the return of Senegal to the biggest stage of football, Cisse is a real time testimony for the capabilities of Senegalese football. When looking at the bench during the chant of the national anthems, what Senegalese players might see is not just their coach, but an inspiration that can lift them for further glory.