Olawale Alabi, Russia
Senegal’s Teranga Lions made Africans in Moscow proud on Tuesday evening with a 2-1 defeat of Poland at the Spartak Stadium in their opening Group H match.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Africans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia have been wearing forlorn faces after four of their five teams lost.
But Senegal gave signs of making the difference by holding their own before the 44,190 crowd who were witnessing a match fought from end to end in the opening minutes.
The Poles did hold the advantage in possession though, but after a neat move in the 37th minute, Senegal opened scoring.
Idrissa Gueye’s shot was deflected in by Thiago Cionek to give the Lions a deserved lead.
Senegal knew what they needed to do thereafter, holding off Poland to take their advantage into the second half, when they tightened the back and still surged forward on the break.
Midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak was soon to make a costly error, playing a high, aimless back pass.
Striker M’Baye Niang controlled the ball ahead of an advancing goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny before tapping into an empty net.
Krychowiak pulled a goal back in the 86th minute with a header from Kamil Grosicki’s free-kick.
But Senegal held on.
Poland are the group’s highest-ranked side at number eight, but they struggled to create further chances with a free-kick from captain Robert Lewandowski one of just four shots on target.
Senegal who are making only their second World Cup appearance now lead the group ahead of Japan, who beat Colombia 1-0 earlier on Tuesday.
NAN reports that Senegal’s victory has now become a breath of fresh air for Africa since Friday when Egypt lost their opening Group A match to Uruguay at Ekaterinburg.
The Egyptians had lost to a Jose Gimenez 89th minute goal, and since then three other African teams have lost their opening group games.
Hours after Egypt’s loss, Morocco lost 0-1 to Iran at Saint Petersburg in a Group B match, through Aziz Bouhaddouz’s own goal in the fifth minute of added time.
Nigeria worsened the situation by losing 0-2 to Croatia at Kaliningrad on Saturday in Group D, through an Oghenekaro Etebo own goal and a Luka Modric penalty kick.
Tunisia went on to add to Africans’ misery on Monday by losing 1-2 to England in Group G at Volgograd.
They gave the game away in the first minute of added time when Harry Kane completed his brace with the winning goal.
Egypt face hosts Russia later on Tuesday in their second Group A game needing victory to stay on in the competition.
On Wednesday, Morocco too will be facing Portugal in a Group B match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow needing a win to stay on.
Nigeria are playing on Friday at Volgograd, also needing to win to stay on from Group D.(NAN)