Having captained Senegal to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2002, Aliou Cisse will be hoping for a repeat of that campaign as head coach, with Poland first up on Tuesday.
2018 FIFA World Cup
19 June 2018
Kick-off: 23:00 HKT
Venue: Spartak Stadium
Referee: N. Shukralla
Assistants: Y. Tulefat, T. Al Marri
Fourth official: A. Al Jassim
Fifth official: M. Al-Hamma
Players to watch:
Sadio Mane was overshadowed by Mohamed Salah to some extent during Liverpool’s 2017/18 season, but the versatile forward has the quality to strike fear into any opponent.
Mane has netted 44 goals in four Premier League seasons – 21 of which came during a two-year stint at Southampton. His good form has reportedly caught the eye of Real Madrid, against whom he scored in the UEFA Champions League final, which the Reds lost 3-1 last month.
However, Mane is set to line up against an equally fearsome striker in Robert Lewandowski, who scored 29 goals in 30 Bundesliga appearances, leading Bayern Munich to the 2017/18 title. When Lewandowski is on song, there are few defenders in the world who can handle him.
Team form and manager quotes:
Senegal come into this match on the back of a 2-0 win over South Korea, but prior to that, they were struggling to find form.
Draws against Uzbekistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Luxembourg were followed up by a 2-1 defeat to Croatia ahead of their most recent victory.
Cisse faces a difficult task, but on the chance of repeating the heroics of 2002, he said: “We are always dreaming. I think we should start small, dream big and think big for the World Cup.”
However, he warned against overconfidence, saying: “Do not get carried away. It should not be that people put us in a favourite position only because Senegal was a quarter-finalist at the 2002 World Cup.”
Since losing 1-0 to Nigeria in March, Poland have responded well with victories over South Korea (3-2) and Lithuania (4-0), with a 2-2 draw against Chile sandwiched in between.
Adam Nawalka tinkered with his formations last year, switching to a 3-4-3 from a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2. According to him, the aim was to “try something new and maximise the potential of some players”.
Whether or not the gamble pays off remains to be seen.
Poland are sweating on the fitness of centre-back Kamil Glik, who injured his shoulder attempting a bicycle kick in training.
Arkadiusz Milik reportedly suffered a freak injury scare when he slipped on a puddle and fell on his hand during the squad’s visit to the Dolphinarium. However, the forward is believed to have nothing more serious than a bruise.
Meanwhile, Senegal will be without defender Saliou Ciss, who has been ruled out of the World Cup with an ankle injury. Adama Mbengue has been drafted into the squad to replace him.