World Cup: Senegal lift African spirits, Egypt on way out

Senegal became the first African team to win at this year’s World Cup, defeating Poland 2-1 on Tuesday, restoring hope that the continent could still make a big impact at the global football festival.

Senegal’s Teranga Lions made Africans  proud on Tuesday evening with a 2-1 defeat of Poland at the Spartak Stadium in their opening Group H match.

Senegal, back in the tournament for the first time since 2002, went ahead in the 37th minute when Thiago Cionek’s attempted block off Idrissa Gueye’s shot wrong-footed goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who was picked to start over fellow Arsenal castoff Lukasz Fabianski.

Mbaye Niang, who returned to the field from treatment, later beat Szczesny to double the lead in the 60th.

Grzegorz Krychowiak, whose backpass led to Senegal’s second goal, headed in a free kick in the 86th minute to end Poland’s streak of five straight scoreless World Cup openers.

Both teams’ stars, Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, rarely threatened in quiet World Cup debuts.

Senegal is tied for the group lead with Japan, which upset Colombia 2-1 earlier. Senegal will play Japan on Sunday, when Poland meets Colombia.

An action scene from the match between Poland and Senegal, whose result restores hope that Africa could still make a big impact at the global football festival/ Photo: Screenshot/FIFA TV

Senegal have won 50% of their World Cup matches – three wins from six matches – which is the best win rate of any African nation in the competition. All three of Senegal’s World Cup wins have been against European nations (France, Sweden and Poland).

Until the Senegal-Poland due, the four other African teams at the World Cup had all lost their opening matches.

Tuesday also saw Egypt lost to hosts Russia 1-3, their second loss at the World Cup after conceding their opening game to Uruguay 0-1. Liverpool forward Salah, playing for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury in the Champions League final, converted a penalty after he had been fouled – but it was not enough to mount an Egypt fightback.

Egypt will be eliminated from the competition if Saudi Arabia fail to beat Uruguay in Rostov-on-Don on Wednesday.

Ken Kamara with agency reports