Poland vs Saudi Arabia predictions: Renard can outfox another rival
Days after securing the result of World Cup 2022 by stunning Lionel Messi's Argentina, Saudi Arabia go in search of another shock against Poland on Saturday.
The Green Falcons scored with their only two shots of the game in coming from behind against the fancied Albiceleste at Lusail Iconic Stadium.
But it was a tactical masterstroke from experienced coach Herve Renard to play with a high line and put his faith in the new offside technology to help frustrate the two-time world champions.
Poland performed below their best in a 0-0 draw with Mexico and Robert Lewandowski will be desperate to make amends for missing a penalty that means Czesław Michniewicz's side cannot afford another slip-up.
Michniewicz is expected to make changes after opening the tournament with a 3-5-2 formation that appeared to have been designed to shoehorn as many attacking players into his starting XI.
One of Sebastian Szymanski, Jakub Kaminski, Nicola Zalewski and Piotr Zielinski could make way for the more defensive-minded presence of Kristian Bielik in midfield.
And another striker could also be added into the mix to support Lewandowski with Arkadiusz Milik vying with Karol Swiderski for the chance to start.
Left-sided defender Bartosz Bereszynski and Bielik, who came on for Zalewski at half-time against Mexico, are under assessment for knocks.
The Saudis' victory over Argentina cost Renard two important players because of injuries.
Left-back Yasser Al-Shahrani suffered a serious injury during the extended period of stoppage time and will be replaced by Mohammed Al-Breik.
Green Falcons skipper Salman Al-Faraj had earlier been forced off the pitch with a muscular injury and also looks set to miss out in midfield.
Al-Shabab midfielder Nawaf Al-Abed looks likely to be his replacement, reducing the Al-Hilal contingent in the Saudi starting XI from nine to seven.
Saudi Arabia have lost nine of their 10 World Cup matches against European opposition, including each of their last eight.
After a victory in their final group game of the 2018 World Cup, the Green Falcons have won two finals games in succession for only the second time — although this is the first time they have scored twice in consecutive matches.
Saudi Arabia have lost only one of 19 competitive matches so far under Renard — against Japan in February.
Salem Al Dawsari is just the second Saudi player to score in multiple World Cups. Sami Al Jaber, the other, netted three goals in total, a record Al Dawsari can match with another key strike.
Poland's 0-0 draw with Mexico was their sixth goalless draw in 35 World Cup matches, making up 17% — the largest such percentage of any team to play 15 or more games.
Robert Lewandowski has not scored in his four World Cup outings, attempting 11 shots — including that unsuccessful penalty against Mexico.
Poland should prepare for a completely different type of game to the Mexico match, but one that could be equally frustrating for them.
Renard's tactical acumen was too much for Lionel Scaloni in the opener and his side have grown in confidence since then.
The Eagles showed very little attacking cohesion in their opening game and the penalty miss for Lewandowski will not have done much for his confidence.
Michniewicz still has not found the right combinations in midfield yet and Saudi Arabia could see more of the ball than they did against Argentina here too.
Both teams tend to be involved in low-scoring games and with Saudi Arabia now commanding much more respect, this could be a hard watch.
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