Aliou Cisse hopes the Lions of Teranga can pounce on spirit of 2002 and other Poland v Senegal talking points

Matt Jones - Editor 09:10 18/06/2018
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Poland and Senegal meet on Tuesday in what should prove to be a pulsating clash in a tantalising Group H.

Along with Japan and Colombia, all four sides will feel they have an excellent chance of making the World Cup knockout rounds.

Ahead of the game, we take a look at three Poland v Senegal talking points.

It’s not all about Robert


Robert Lewandowski carries the weight of expectation on his broad shoulders, much in the same way Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo do for their countries.

And after leading UEFA qualifying on the road to Russia with a merciless 16 goals, the Bayern Munich man will be key to helping Poland relive the glory days of World Cups of the past.

Polskie Orly (the Polish Eagles) have a proud World Cup pedigree, having finished third twice – in 1974 and 1982.

The last 16 was reached at Mexico 86 but of the ensuing seven tournaments the Poles have disappointingly only featured twice.

What Lewandowski wouldn’t give to emulate legendary compatriot Grzegorz Lato, who notched seven goals to finish as top scorer in 1974, or Zbigniew Boniek who netted four times as Poland again claimed third eight years later in Spain.

But while Lewandowski will undoubtedly be Poland’s guiding star, he has a stellar support cast to call upon, a squad who will be buoyed by their trip to the quarter-finals of the European Championships two years ago.

Led by Lewandowski, but Piotr Zielinski, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Kamil Grosicki and Kamil Glik among others have Polish fans believing this side can finally end more than 35 years of emptiness.

Spirits are further raised by an impressive run through qualifying – they finished well above fellow participants Denmark in Group E.

The success of Adam Nawalka’s system depends on midfield runners supporting Lewandowski, and the country’s leading scorer (55 goals in 95 caps) for once is clearly not short of support.

Blaszczykowski (20), Grosicki and Arkadiusz Milik (both 12) all have form for scoring on the international stage, and in an open Group H, they have an excellent chance to belatedly make more history.

Cisse can make the Lions of Teranga roar

Aliou Cisse

The Lions of Teranga prowled the plains of the World Cup environment for the first time in 2002 and enjoyed a stunning debut as they made it all the way to the quarter-finals.

Senegal’s dream run began in stunning fashion as they upset reigning champions France – Papa Bouba Diop’s goal enough to instantly earn them immortality as the first signs of French in-fighting became apparent.

They are one of only three African sides to reach the last eight – Cameroon in 1990 and Ghana in 2010 the others.

What a coup it is then for the Lions of Teranga to have the man who led them on the field in Japan and South Korea now leading them from the dugout in Russia – Aliou Cisse.

The versatile former Paris Saint-Germain defender/midfielder has been in charge since 2015 – overseeing an impressive 25 wins in 42 games, of which just seven defeats have been suffered.

He has stacked his backroom staff with a who’s who of former teammates from the golden era too, with standout keeper Tony Sylva, as well as defenders Omar Daf and Lamine Diatta all now part of Cisse’s coaching staff.

At 42 he might be one of the youngest coaches in Russia, but don’t let that fool you. He is supremely experienced. He was also briefly in a caretaker role in 2012, while he was assistant coach of the Under-23 side from 2012 to 2013, before becoming head coach from 2013-15.

He has been firmly entrenched within the Senegal set-up for many years, while his connection to the players as a former international himself, and not all that long ago, can help foster a tight bond among the squad.

In a wide open Group H, anything can happen too.

They would sensationally beat Sweden in extra-time in the round of 16, 16 years ago.

Only three defeats in 25 games over the last two years see them coming into the World Cup in fine fettle. And if Cisse can get the best out of his flair players like Sadio Mane and Keita Balde, they could thrive.


Linetty in line to make a big impact


Major tournaments such as the World Cup or European Championships can act as a main stage, providing many players with the platform from which to launch themselves into the limelight.

In Brazil four years ago, even though we were well aware of who he was, Paul Pogba showed the immeasurable amount of talent he possesses when he won the tournament’s young player, while Monaco’s James Rodriguez stole the hearts and minds of many watching in Brazil and on screen as Colombia wowed en route to the quarter-finals.

Step forward then Karol Linetty – Poland’s rising midfield pivot who could be set for a breakout tournament.

The 23-year-old has enjoyed a fine season domestically in Serie A, where he has been thrust into the spotlight by Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo.

The versatile Lech Poznan academy graduate can cover a variety of roles in the engine room for both club and country. For Polskie Orly Linetty lingers in defensive midfield, handed the job of screening the back four but is also utilised as a disruptive influence by national team boss Adam Nawalka. Simultaneously he is given the freedom to roam forward while Grzegorz Krychowiak stays put.

Under Giampaolo and his 4-3-1-2, Linetty is deployed predominately in an attacking role.

Last season his 1.1 average dribbles per game was third among Samp players while he weighed in with two leagues assists (joint fifth) and registered three goals.

Everton and Tottenham maintain a heavy interest. Even though he may have to settle for a place on the bench, at least in the opener against Senegal, a strong showing in Russia could set him on the fast-track towards a major career move.

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