MOSCOW. – Senegal recorded the first African win at the 2018 FIFA World Cup after beating Poland 2-1 at the Spartak Stadium here yesterday as the Lions of Teranga evoked memories of their last campaign on this stage 16 years ago.
The West Africans defeated defending champions France in Seoul in their opening match in 2002.
The Poles are not quite as huge a scalp as Les Bleus, but the African side were underdogs nevertheless, and belied that status with their energetic performance.
Idrissa Gueye’s low drive was deflected into his own net by Thiago Cionek, but the Teranga Lions were good value for their lead.
Mbaye Niang seized an opportunity in the hesitant Poland defence to round Wojciech Szczesny and double his side’s advantage after the break.
Grzegorz Krychowiak’s decision-making was partly to blame for Senegal’s second and he made some amends by reducing the arrears with a late goal. But it was ultimately in vain as Aliou Cisse’s side held on to claim three points – their first World Cup win since Cisse captained the side to victory against Sweden in the Korea/Japan 2002 Round of 16.
‘‘We have talent that we want to show to the world,” declared coach Aliou Cisse when his team landed in Russia.
His side showed some of that ability against the higher-ranked Poles.
They deserved their win against a team who were wasteful in front of goal. The only blemish for the Teranga Lions was that key players Idrissa Gueye and Salif Sane picked up yellow cards.
“We managed to control the game tactically and emotionally,’’ said Cisse.
‘‘This victory means we enter the competition in the best possible way, but we know it will be a difficult match against Japan. I guarantee the whole of Africa is supporting us. I get phone calls from everywhere. We are proud to represent Africa.”
Senegal striker Mbaye Niang not only made the game safe for his team with a second goal, but was full of running and troubled the opposing defence with his size and physical presence when he was on the pitch.
He was duly named man-of-the-match. Senegal are one of only three sides in World Cup history (including East Germany and Wales, both three) who are unbeaten in group stage matches, having now played four without a single defeat.
Despite the defeat, Poland head coach remained upbeat about his team’s chances at Russia 2018.
“I think we have a lot of stamina and strength within the team to start our match against Colombia with full strength. I’m convinced we will recuperate and regenerate after this match. We will have a positive attitude in the next match.”