POLAND v SENEGAL
Live on ITV. Tuesday June 19, kick-off 4pm
WHILE not exactly a one-man team, Poland's reliance on Robert Lewandowski is clear.
The Bayern Munich striker scored 16 of his nation's 28 goals in their 10 qualifiers and will carry their hopes in his first and, at age 29, possibly his last World Cup finals.
The Poles' road to Russia featured plenty of goals at both ends – all 10 matches had over 2.5 and the 14 conceded by Adam Nawalka's team was the highest of any European side who finished in the top two.
Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik is an able sidekick to Lewandowski while an injury to key defender Kamil Glik – the stopper damaged a shoulder after attempting a bicycle kick in training – makes him a doubt for the opening match and his absence would make a leaky defence even more vulnerable.
After failing to qualify for the last World Cup, big things were expected of the Poles at Euro 2016 but they failed to impress and the likes of Glik, Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Fabianski are all now the wrong side of 30.
They could find it tough to cope with the lightning-quick counter-attacks of a Senegal side spearheaded by Liverpool star Sadio Mane.
Senegal are back at the greatest show on earth for the first time since their dazzling debut run to the quarter-finals in 2002 and are managed by the captain of that side, former Birmingham midfielder Aliou Cisse.
Everton's Idrissa Gueye and West Ham's Cheikhou Kouyate provide the steel in a powerful midfield, Kalidou Koulibaly is a top-quality centre-back and Monaco's Keita Balde is another pedigree performer up top alongside Mane.
Cisse's team aren't without flaws – left-back and goalkeeper have been highlighted as weak spots and they lack flair in midfield – but after qualifying without a sweat the Senegalese will be eyeing the last 16 in a far from daunting group.
This opening showdown will have a big bearing on their bid to reach that target and with these two sides looking pretty evenly matched, goals is the way to go here.
- Over 2.5 goals (69-50, Marathonbet)
- Lewandowski (3-1, Sportingbet)
- Poland 2, Senegal 2 (16-1, Ladbrokes)