Senegal sprung the second surprise of the day, as Aliou Cisse’s men defeated a lacklustre Poland 2-1 in their Group H.
The two sides were contesting the final match in the first round of fixtures, with it all to play for in Group H after Japan beat 10-man Colombia in the earlier fixture. Poland entered the game as favourites due to their eighth-place position in the current FIFA rankings but there was little to choose between the two starting elevens.
Poland began with star man and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who will be hoping to impress at the tournament as he is looking for a move this summer. Lewandowski struggled to make an impact on his last international tournament, scoring just once at Euro 2016.
Senegal meanwhile were hoping to become the first African team to avoid defeat in the first round after the other four African representatives all lost their opening games.
It was a robust start to the game as both sides began with great intensity and commitment. It led to some full blooded challenges in the early stages, with West Brom Grzegorz Krychowiak midfielder picking up an early yellow card for his troubles.
M’baye Niang looked certain to put Senegal ahead inside 20 minutes after a beautiful ball forward from Youssouf Sabaly but he made the wrong choice in front of goal, curling his shot harmlessly wide.
Niang continued to create problems for Poland as the half drew on, very nearly putting his strike partner Mame Biram Diouf through on goal on a couple of occasions but the duo struggled to link up when it mattered.
Poland meanwhile began to drop off as the half went on, and they struggled to match the pace set by Senegal – resulting in few clear-cut chances for either side.
Mame Diouf had another big opportunity to put his side ahead around the 33rd-minute mark, failing to properly connect with his head after a searching cross found him in the box.
The striker was flagged offside in the end anyway but it was a big warning sign for the Poles as Senegal continued to look the more likely side to break the deadlock.
The Poles did not heed the warning as just four minutes later the Lions of Teranga got the breakthrough after Idrissa Gana Gueye’s long-range effort took a huge deflection off Thiago Cionek to slide past his own keeper.
Senegal should have added a second from a corner before half-time as Salif Sane met the ball unmarked in the centre of the area but diverted his header into the ground and over the bar.
Lewandowski then threatened to bring Poland level in another high-intensity start to the second half. The striker looked through on goal before being tripped by Sane, who received a yellow for his trouble, before Lewandowski saw his placed free-kick punched away by Khadim Ndiaye.
Senegal broke quickly at nearly hit Poland with a sucker punch second if not for an excellent block from Michal Pazdan.
Poland looked better as an attacking side as they began to put pressure on the Senegal defence before a comedy of errors gifted the Lions of Teranga a second goal.
A back pass from Krychowiak put the defence under intense pressure after he failed to take into account Niang who was rejoining the pitch after receiving treatment. Niang stole a march ahead on the defender who couldn’t meet the wayward ball as Wojciech Szczęsny came surging off his line to recover the situation.
The Senegalese forward poked the ball around the stranded keeper and continued down the pitch to finish off an open goal just as Poland were beginning to get into the game.
Milik came close to reducing the deficit with a front post chance in the 70th minute but once again the quality was not there for Poland. It became an increasingly tepid performance from the Poles, who showed little guile or desire to get back into the game.
VAR took the spotlight again in a frantic finale, first as Senegal had a late shout for a penalty denied as Ismaili Sarr went down under the challenge of Maciej Rybus. Then Poland pulled one back from a free kick which had to be checked for an offside before being awarded, with both decisions correct.
Krychowiak was the hero turned villain as his header gave his side a fighting chance to rescue a point in the dying embers of the game. Poland finally began to show some urgency, producing several good chances but in the end, a commanding display from Khadim Ndiaye meant Poland paid the price for their earlier errors.