Senegal put smiles on the faces of many on the African continent after a securing a 2-1 victory over Poland.
An own goal from Poland’s Brazilian-born defender Thiago Cionek, and a strike from M’Baye Niang were enough to secure three points in this opening game.
In comparison to the pre-tournament predictions, Group H is currently upside down with favourites Colombia sat at the bottom of the group. Japan and Senegal will be looking to keep it that way.
Few people in Africa had hope in Senegal due to the feeling that they’re more of a group of talented individuals, rather than a collective unit. They’re more like the Didier Drogba Ivory Coast side who, despite the array of stars in their ranks, failed to make an impact at their three previous World Cups.
The narrative is not dissimilar from Africa’s story at previous World Cups. The West African sides have had a knack of making it far in the tournament. Cameroon in 1990, Nigeria in 94, 98, Senegal in 2002, Ghana in 2006 and 2010 Nigeria and Algeria in 2014.
Senegal, managed by former leader and Captain Aliou Cissé, inspired the African continent when things looked dire in this year’s tournament. Nigeria, Morocco, and Tunisia have got a slim chance of making it the knock out round, but their supporters and compatriots will still be hoping they make them proud.
Senegal will face Japan in their next Group H match where they will hope to build on their victory over Poland. Japan were impressive in their 2-1 win over Colombia, and will be equally buoyed by their own result.
Given the fast paced nature of Japan’s game, it will be ideal for Aliou Cissé to pair Cheikhou Kouyate and destroyer Idrissa Gana Gueye in midfield to stem the surging runs of their opponent’s attack.
Both players will need to do a lot of mopping up in middle of the pitch, while Kalidou Koulibaly will marshals the defence and hope to keep them at bay.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane will need to be more involved this time around, as he was quiet by his usual standards in the first game.
A win for Senegal will virtually ensure qualification to the next stage, and much of Africa awaits their next game with bated breath.