Poland returned to the World Cup with relative ease, breezing through European qualifying with eight wins from their ten matches. It’s hard to believe that the Poles only won three games in each of their last two World Cup qualification campaigns, especially now that they are eighth in the FIFA rankings, but the reality is that Poland spent the best part of that eight year period ranked 34th or lower (and below 70th at certain stages).
Much of their recent progress is due to their captain and leading goal-scorer Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich frontman is up there with the best strikers in the world, and has already notched up over 50 goals for his country. During qualifying, he managed 16 of his side’s 28 goals and broke the record for most goals during a European qualification campaign.
Senegal have also improved to one of their best world rankings in the last few years; their current mark of 27th makes them the second-best African nation at the World Cup behind Tunisia. They too were rarely troubled throughout qualification, going undefeated (5 wins, 3 draws) to book just their second berth at the world’s biggest sporting event.
The current Senegalese squad is packed full of talented players who are based throughout Europe, most notably Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) and captain Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United). The pace of the side is perhaps their biggest strength, while they also boast excellence in the centre of the park and are competent at breaking down attacks.
Poland too are blessed across the park and boast considerable talent coming through the system. Koulibaly’s Napoli teammates Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zielinski are two of Poland’s younger generation that are already excelling at national level. Their pace and creativity will cause problems for the Senegalese defenders.
This match is tough to pick, not least because the teams are yet to come up against each other. Both sides are capable of winning this match, and it may come down to the final team selection or tactics that the managers utilise on the day. We can’t split them, and despite the early favouritism for Poland among the top online sportsbooks, we rate the draw as the best chance here.
Poland start at +125, which indicates that the leading sportsbooks believe this will be a tight contest as well. The draw is available at +219, while Senegal start at +229. There is value across the board here, particularly if you think Poland will get the job done.
We’re not so sure that they will though, and actually think Senegal are a good chance to qualify from this very interesting group. We are predicting a draw, perhaps 1-1, with the score to be 0-0 at half-time.