Poland’s opening match at this World Cup pretty much went to script. That certainly wasn’t the case with our first look at Saudi Arabia. Poland and Mexico looked well matched, and so it proved, with honours even. To the list of World Cup shocks like the USA’s win over England in 1950, North Korea’s stunning defeat of Italy in 1966, Cameroon’s victory over defending champions Argentina in 1990, and Senegal beating France 12 years later, we can add 25/1 shots Saudi Arabia upsetting second favourites, Argentina. The Green Falcons benefitted from Argentina having three goals ruled out and the Expected Goals favoured their opponents by 2.30 to 0.15. That same statistic suggests a point was about right for Poland, though they shaded it 1.11 to 0.79 and their talisman, Robert Lewandowski, saw his penalty saved. Lewandowski is still waiting for his first World Cup goal.
Both sides opted for 4-1-4-1 formations in their opening games. Saudi Arabia may do so again, while the Poles must be tempted to play Arkadiusz Milik up with Lewandowski, to avoid the two-time World Player of the Year being too isolated. Poland, ranked 26th in the world, has won all four previous meetings with the Saudis, who sit 51st in the world rankings. However, a 2-0 win in 1994 was the biggest margin of victory in any of those matches. Another surprise win for the Green Falcons will ensure that they reach the last 16 for the second time, matching their best-ever World Cup performance, in 1994.