It’s time for round 2 of the group stage fixtures of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which sees Poland take on Saudi Arabia in Group C.
Poland struggled to create anything worthy in the final third in their first group match against Mexico, as they were held to a 0-0 draw. Robert Lewandowski missed the best chance of the game as he saw his penalty saved by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in the second half. Throughout the game, both defenses got the better of the attackers as Poland only managed a meagre two shots on target, including the penalty saved. It was a frustrating afternoon for the Polish as they now stand in second place in Group C, behind their next opponents who shocked the world on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia received high acclaim and deserved applause for a brilliant showing on Tuesday afternoon, causing perhaps one of the biggest upsets in the World Cup. The Green Falcons were drawn up against favourites Argentina in their opening game, with not many predicting the result in their favour. Argentina led the game 1-0 thanks to a Lionel Messi penalty inside the first 10 minutes, with everything going as per script in the first half.
However, a different Saudi Arabian team stepped out in the second half, scoring two quickfire goals to lead the game 2-1, which they held on to till the final whistle. They had outclassed Argentina with their gritty defending and dubious defensive plays, and took their opportunities in front of goal when they came. It was a big blow for the Argentinian team, with the dynamics of Group C now drastically changed.
When & Where?
Date: Saturday, 26th November 2022.
Time: 14:00 HRS BST
Venue: Education City Stadium, Ar-Rayyan, Qatar.
Poland emerged unscathed from their goalless encounter against Mexico and head into the second game with a fully fit squad.
For Saudi Arabia however, things are not quite as similar. A couple players could miss out on Saturday’s game, with defender Yasser Al-Shahrani suffering a serious head injury in their opening game after colliding with teammate, goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais. Al-Shahrani has reportedly fractured his jaw and left facial bones, which will see him miss out against Poland. Captain and midfielder Salman Al- Faraj also limped off on the cusp of half-time with a hamstring injury and it is unclear how long he faces on the sidelines.
Saudi Arabia earned mighty praise for the way they were set up against Argentina. Manager Herve Renard set his team up in a mid-block to neutralize the superb Argentinian attack of Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Lautaro Martinez and Papu Gomez. His defense played a brilliant high line, in sync with each other, as they caught Argentina in their offside trap time and again. Lionel Messi and Co were caught a whopping 10 times by the Green Falcons’ defense, as they found it incredibly hard to break down the Saudi Arabian defensive unit.
That game was just a taster for the world about the work Renard was doing. The Saudi Arabian team has been at their defensive best in the Asian qualifiers, and it would not be foolish to say they could be the most on-form team in Asia right now. Poland on the other hand, are bare toothless in attack as seen against Mexico, even with one of the best strikers in Europe. Lewandowski was unable to inspire his nation to an opening win and failed to end his World Cup drought even when provided with a golden chance to do so.
However, the European side had a much better evening than their Argentinian counterparts, opening their points account. They have superior quality players but Saudi Arabia are a tricky outfit and works very well together. Poland could fancy their chances on Saturday but it will be a tough task for their attack and they will need to get their act together soon. Saudi Arabia’s win has opened up the door for a number of results, and a win on Saturday for Poland could put them into the driving seat in Group C.
Premier League Players to watch out
The Aston Villa fullback was born in England but has Polish ancestry on his mother’s side, and in October 2021 was declared eligible to play for their national team. Since then, he has been a regular fixture in the squad and starting 11, earning 8 caps in the process.
He was a winger early on, but was converted into a right-back, a role in which he has excelled. He is an aggressive defender and has been given the freedom to go forward and join the attack. His crosses into the box are always dangerous, and it looks like he will be the long-term heir to the Polish right-back spot left empty by Lukasz Piszczek. His contribution will be vital if the Polish attack is to get past the Saudi defense.
Poland lineup vs Saudi Arabia: Wojciech Szczesny; Matty Cash, Kamil Glik, Jakub Kiwior, Bartosz Bereszynski; Sebastian Szymanski, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Piotr Zielinski; Nicola Zalewski, Robert Lewandowski, Arkadisuz Milik.
Saudi Arabia lineup vs Poland: Mohammed Al-Owais; Saud Abdulhamid, Hassan Al-Tambakti, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Al-Burayk; Nawaf Al-Abid, Abdulelah Al-Malki; Feras Al-Buraikan, Mohamed Kanno, Salem Al-Dawsari; Saleh Al-Shehri.