The last of the World Cup’s first round of matches is set to be an absolute cracker. Poland are the top seed in this group having manipulated the FIFA ranking system, but Senegal will surely see them as there for the taking.
Senegal, who we rank at 35th, have reached just their second World Cup following a successful qualification campaign, winning four of their six unbeaten matches. Meanwhile, Poland won eight of their 10 qualification matches but they’ve struggled since securing their place, losing two of their five friendly matches, with their two wins in this time coming against South Korea – who we rate as the worst side at the Finals – and Lithuania, who we rank outside the world’s top 100. In fact, this Polish team have gone just W1-D4-L4 in the last five years playing outside of their own country against teams we ranked in the top 40, with their sole triumph a 1-0 win over Ukraine. Moreover, Senegal have won half of their last eight matches, while losing just once, and given their opposition have taken a setback with the injury to key centre-back Kamil Glik, we fancy their chances.
If Senegal have any chance of emulating their 2002 run to the quarter-finals, Sadio Mane will need to be on form. He has a real appetite for goals in knockout games, scoring 10 goals from his last nine Champions League games for his club, while he’s had a say in half of Senegal’s 14 goals they managed to score in qualification when he was playing.
Senegal have scored in 26 of their 34 matches on the road or at neutral venues, netting exactly twice in half of them. Poland have also been scoring goals for fun, netting an average of exactly two per game across their last 28 matches since finishing their Euro 2016 qualification in 2015, and with their last game with a top-40 ranked sides finishing 2-2, we fancy a punt on that.