Senegal player Ismaila Sarr made a big impact after a terrific win over Poland.
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Senegal recorded an excellent 2-1 win over a more fancied Poland side to enhance their chances of progressing from what must be the hardest group at the World Cup to call, even before two results that threw it wide open.
While several Senegal players impressed, not least the terrific Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye, wide forward M’Baye Niang of Torino, and Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, the Rennes prospect Ismaila Sarr made a big impact as a somewhat surprise starter.
While the usual, questionable clichés have been trotted out about the ‘pace and power’ of African teams, what was most impressive about Senegal was their pressing game and the way they maximised the attacking opportunities that came their way.
While Poland had 61% possession they only managed 44.6% territory, as Senegal consistently found ways to frustrate them. Indeed, it was only some wayward finishing that prevented the score-line from having a more emphatic feel to it. Senegal’s 4-2-3-1 fell back into a 4-4-2, with Niang or Mane pushing up alongside Mame Biram Diouf, or a 4-1-4-1, with Diouf pressing alone and one of Gueye or Alfred N’Diaye dropping back to screen the back four.
From his right midfield position, Ismaili Sarr pressed intelligently and with vigour, ensuring that Maciej Rybus, the Polish left-back, almost always had to pass back to his goalkeeper or into a centre-back. He, in turn, came under pressure from the energetic pressing of Mame Biram Diouf or Sadio Mane in Poland’s left half-space, which meant that Senegal were able to stop Poland from building slowly from the back or advancing their full-backs too high, a real area of threat for the European side.
Sarr constantly made life hard for Poland, and his five ball recoveries were the most of any attacking player on the pitch, joint with Sadio Mane and Robert Lewandowski. He was then able to carry it himself or pass sensibly back to the midfield or his full-back, as Senegal sought to retain possession against a side trying to hog the ball.
Article by TIFO FOOTBALL & Football Index
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