Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
Szczesny the hero of the hour as Poland put one foot into knockout stage
By Sam Dean
Football matches are played over the course of 100 minutes these days but, every now and then, they are decided in milliseconds. For goalkeepers, especially, all of the tactical planning and breathless action can sometimes be condensed into just one bold decision and one moment of genius.
Or, in the case of Wojciech Szczesny here, two moments and two decisions — all in the space of less than three seconds. The Poland goalkeeper produced the save of the tournament so far, denying Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty, and then, before he even had time to blink, sprung back to his feet to make an even more remarkable stop from Mohammed Al Burayk’s rebound.
A double-save supreme, at the most pivotal of moments for his side, and a feat of goalkeeping prowess that, in the words of Saudi Arabia manager Herve Renard, won this match for his side. Poland had struggled for much of the first half under heavy pressure from an energetic Saudi Arabia team, and conceding on the brink of half-time would have been a brutal setback.
“I am sure it would have changed a lot of things,” said Renard of Szczesny’s masterpiece. “He did a fantastic job. A great goalkeeper. Congratulations to him, I think he won this game.”
It felt significant, too, that Al-Dawsari was the thwarted player. Saudi Arabia’s captain is the star of his team and a thrilling forward to watch, all flicks and spins, but in the one-versus-one duel with Szczesny, it was the Poland goalkeeper who dominated.
For the penalty, Szczesny deceived his opponent by feigning to dive left, and then suddenly switching to his right. Al-Dawsari took the bait.
“I saw this particular player watches the goalkeeper and decides where to put his penalty depending on the first movement of the goalkeeper, so I made a little movement to the left at the second, and he sent the penalty to my right,” said Szczesny.
“I don’t want to be arrogant but I knew it was going to be quite a simple penalty save today. I knew I was going to make him put it where I wanted him to.”
Al-Dawsari ended the game with three shots on target, all of them saved by Szczesny. As well as the penalty, there was also a brave stop from close range which triggered a passionate first-pumping celebration from the former Arsenal player. These moments do not come around very often for goalkeepers, and Szczesny is wise enough to enjoy them when they do.
“I am not going to score a goal at the World Cup," he said. "So the next best thing is to save a penalty in important moments.”
Szczesny has now stopped penalties in the Premier League, Serie A, Champions League and World Cup. As a senior player at Juventus, he is going from strength to strength.
Szczesny made the difference at one end, then, and Robert Lewandowski did the same at the other. The Barcelona striker assisted Poland’s opener, finished by Piotr Zielinski, and was in tears after finally scoring his first World Cup goal in the second half.
“The older I get, the more emotional I get,” said Lewandowski, who had missed a penalty in the previous match against Mexico. “I am aware that this might be my last World Cup. My childhood dreams came true.”
The three points for Poland meant that Saudi Arabia, conquerors of Argentina in the first round, were unable to become the first side to reach the knockout stages of the tournament. They will have another chance when they meet Mexico on Wednesday. “We are still alive,” said Renard.
Poland (4-2-3-1): Szczęsny 8; Cash 7, Glik 7, Kiwior 7, Bereszyński 6; Krychowiak 7, Bielik 6; Milik 6 (Piatek 71), Zieliński 7 (Kamiński 63), Frankowski 6; Lewandowski 8.
Booked: Kiwior, Cash, Milik.
Saudi Arabia (4-2-3-1): Al Owais 7; Saud 6, Al Amri 6, Al Bulayhi 6, Al Burayk 5 (Al Ghannam 65); Kanno 7, Al Malki 5 (Al Obud 85); Feras 5, Sami 5 (Al Abid 45, Bahbri 90), Al Dawsari 7; Al Shehri 6 (Al Shardan 86).
Booked: Al Amri, Al Malki.
Referee: Wilton Sampaio (Brazil).
Poland players mob Lewandowski after his first World Cup goal
I think that meant a lot to him...
Rate the players
FULL TIME: Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
That'll do. A fairly average draw against Mexico in their first game but this was surely better. They were under the cosh for long periods of the game but came out of this with three points, Lewandowski scoring a goal which clearly meant so much to him.
Saudi Arabia will feel hard done by, but that is football.
90+6 mins: Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
Kanno with a curling right-footed shot from the edge of the box, it is mere inches wide. The keeper would not have got to it. Very good effort but it was not to be. Sums up Saudi Arabia's afternoon.
90+3 mins: Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
The atmosphere in the stadium seems as quiet as it has been all day, and not surprising. Saudi Arabia still in a decent position in this group with three points after two games, but they will probably need a result against Mexico in their final group game. Mexico play Argentina later today.
90 mins: Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
Seven minutes of added time.
89 mins: Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
It was nearly three! And two for Lewandowski...
Szczesny sets up a good break, Lewandowski breaks into the box, tries to sit the keeper down and chip it over him but doesn't get it quite right. The ball nearly bounces into the net but the Saudi defence kicks it out for a corner. Probably should have scored.
87 mins: Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
Saudi Arabia are still coming... plenty of joy on the left-hand side in this half and they continue to probe that area.
84 mins: Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
This is going to be a deflating loss for Saudi Arabia. They have competed, but they have been good enough to compete. Still, there even though this may exceed expectations that others may have had, they should feel disappointed because they probably should have got more from this game.
GOAAAAAAAAL! Saudi mistake punished!
That is a howler of a mistake... and Robert Lewandowski is there to put in the simplest of chances!
Al Malki receives the ball from the left on the edge of his own box, tries to trap it but does not get it under control... it runs away from him and you can see the terror in his face as Lewandowski bears down on the ball. The Pole gets the ball and just has the keeper to beat which he does with ease.
𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝗯𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗽 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂'𝗿𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘄
Robert Lewandowski finally has his World Cup goal 🇵🇱👏
Look how much that means to him 😢 pic.twitter.com/TTdOLH3ivS
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 26, 2022
That surely should be the three points.
Poland 2 Saudi Arabia 0
80 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Sub Al Ghannam (who came on for Al Burayk) fires a hard cross across from the right but no green shirt can get anything on it and it's a goal kick. Encouraging, but time is running out.
78 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Was that it?! Abdulhamid with some quick footwork on the left, opens up the Poland defence... the ball eventually falls to Al Malki who drags it just wide with his left foot from the edge of the box! Agonising.
77 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Will Saudi Arabia get that golden chance? Well, they've had a few already in fairness, so will they get another? A point would be a fantastic result, leaving them on four points and with a great chance of qualifying.
74 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Lewandowski with a perfectly timed run... well, almost. He is put through superbly... he's through onto the ball on his own in the Saudi Arabia half but Al Owais is wise to it and beats him to the ball by sprinting out of his box and booting it out for a throw-in.
73 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
This is a frantic end to a fairly frantic game of football. And there's still probably 25 minutes left...
70 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Another change for Poland. Off comes Milik and on comes Piatek.
69 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
A nice bit of play on the left leads to Al Dawsari getting the ball in space. He lets fly with his right foot from 20 yards but it's hit straight at Szczesny, who saves comfortably.
67 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Abid sends the free-kick in... and into the wall. Poor.
66 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Now a free kick 22 yards out for Saudi Arabia. The typical "real end-to-end stuff" here now.
65 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Poland hit the woodwork again!
Lewandowski connects with his trailing leg on a cross from the right and it hits the post! Not intentional but it nearly snuck in at the near post.
62 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
That was very nearly 2-0! And probably should have been. Milik heads against the crossbar.
Could have done better? Maybe, but he had to stoop a bit low to get his head on it properly and then it's more likely to go upwards. Good cross in from the left, though.
60 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Change for Poland: Zielinksi, the goalscorer, comes off and Kaminski is on.
60 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Into the final 30 minutes of normal time and Saudi Arabia come again...
Some fantastic skill from Al Dawsiri on the edge of the box, a couple of dragbacks and then he releases Al Brikan in a great position on the left of the box, taking out two Poland defenders, but the left-footed shot is skewed wide...
And then almost instantly another chance soon after... and a shout for a penalty on Al Shehri, but it's more of a dive and then the ball falls to Kanno who blazes over the bar.
58 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Aston Villa's Matty Cash miscues a cross. He was involved in the goal build-up after a torrid opening 20 minutes or so which included a booking for this challenge.
Poland have calmed down a bit now and settled into this game. They are looking less ragged, as they might do with a 1-0 lead. They are far from out of the woods in this game, however.
55 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Dawsari breaks quite brilliantly through into the Poland box and creates another chance. It falls to Al Abid but he can't get the ball from under his feet as the Polish wall blocks the goal attempt. Another half chance after that but Poland clear... another let off. Al Dawsari still a danger. Trying to make up for that earlier penalty miss.
53 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Shehri fouls Krychowiak just outside of the Poland penalty area. He does not get booked but he probably should have. It probably stops a quick Poland counter attack.
51 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Burayk sends in the cross. Kanno does an overhead kick from the edge of the box but it is dragged well wide. At least it went in the general direction of the goal.
49 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Owais with a crucial intervention, sweeping the ball out against a Polish attacker chasing him down. Now Kanno goes down injured. A clash of heads with Lewandowski, no fault of the Pole though.
Saudi Arabia attack, as they have done constantly, and win another corner, this time down the left.
48 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
It's a free kick to Saudi Arabia in a dangerous position. Al Abid will take with his left foot, on the right of the pitch. Can't beat the second man but they come again. I don't think they will get a great deal of joy aerially against this Poland side.
Saudi Arabia get the second 45 (likely 55...) under way. Al Abid is on for Saudi Arabia, for Al Naji. I don't think they need to change too much from what they did in the first half.
Sam Dean's half-time analysis
This has turned into a very enjoyable game indeed. Not sure Poland deserve their lead but in Wojciech Szczęsny they have the game's most decisive player so far. That was an extraordinary double save, first to deny Salem Al-Dawsari's penalty and then to turn over Mohammed Al Burayk's rebound.
Szczęsny was also involved in Poland's goal, as it was his driven pass to Matty Cash that started the move. Top marks for the former Arsenal goalkeeper.
Rate the players
HALF TIME: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Do Poland deserve that 1-0 lead? Probably not. But a lead they have, and with a penalty save to boot.
45+9 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Love this shot of the aftermath of the penalty save. It was not a great penalty but the Pole in goal did very well.
45+6 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Another Saudi Arabian injury. There have been a few of them so far today. Not to mention those in the game against Argentina. I don't think Saudi Arabia need to do too much different. They've been well in this game, though its flow has been disrupted since that goal. Missing a penalty has not helped their cause, it rarely does.
45+3 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Some question on whether Szczesny had some part of his foot off the line when the penalty was taken but it all seems okay, if marginal. We are three minutes into 10 minutes of added time in the first half.
45 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
It's going to be Al Dawsari who will take...
But he misses! A really bad penalty. Low and to Szczesny's right. He saves it and the follow up by Al Burayk is also tipped over by the keeper! Szczesny saves Poland.
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 26, 2022
It is a corner, but that also comes to nothing.
43 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Is this a penalty to Saudi Arabia? Bielik touches Al Shehri in the penalty box... Var flags it up, the ref takes a look and decides it is a penalty.
Penalty to Saudi Arabia!
41 mins: Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Not sure there's ever a bad time to take the lead, but just before half-time and under a ton of pressure for more than 30 minutes is pretty handy.
GOAAAAAAAL! POLAND TAKE THE LEAD
From nowhere?! Almost!
Zielinski puts Poland ahead! Lewandowski with the assist.
𝗣𝗢𝗟𝗔𝗡𝗗 𝗣𝗢𝗨𝗡𝗖𝗘 🎯
Matty Cash in the thick of it but it's Napoli midfielder Piotr Zieliński who strikes to put Poland in front against Saudi Arabia 🇵🇱🇸🇦#ITVFootball | #FifaWorldCup pic.twitter.com/lIbqxGP2mb
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 26, 2022
Poland 1 Saudi Arabia 0
38 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
The stretcher comes out for Al Bulayhi but it isn't required thankfully.
36 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Poland are getting no time on the ball, at all. They have a bit more of the ball now but are forced back by the terrier-like Saudis. Just trying to disrupt their play. Lewandowski looks to have outmuscled Al Bulayhi on the right edge of the box but the referee blows for a foul. He stays down on the ground for a while... may have landed awkwardly. Lewandowski without much joy so far today.
33 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Malki with a wonderful, deft touch on the right to create space, he then finds Abdulhamid nearby who crosses across the six yard box but no green shirt can find the ball. Dangerous.
Rate the players so far
28 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
An improved five or so minutes for Poland, but they are still lacking composure and the ball is lost in midfield again.
Lewandowki takes a neat touch and almost brings it down to shoot on the edge of the box, but cannot quite position himself well enough. Saudi Arabia break but Kanno is penalised for a handball and Poland win a free kick.
25 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
A better minute or two for Poland as Cash wins a corner. Still lacking a bit of consistency in their pass, though.
Zielinski sends in the corner, Bielink heads it goalwards but Al Shehri heads it over the crossbar! Keeper would have had it, though. Maybe he should have done better.
Saudi Arabia break but with a man down, Al Naji. He's still down holding his achilles once the play has broken down. Looks like the Saudi Arabia assistant manager has been booked too. Not sure what for. Mouthing off to the Fifa officials most likely.
23 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Poland are penned in here. The crowd is up, they've had three bookings and Saudi Arabia are causing them all sorts of problems in their own half. They just need five or 10 minutes in which to settle. They are getting forward occasionally on the break, though and they nearly get through here.
20 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Cash is arguably lucky to still be on the pitch. He jumps and his arm goes into the back of Al Burayk as they jump for a header. Al Malki is booked for protesting but that should, surely, have been a second booking for Cash. Andros Townsend on ITV isn't having that, though, describing it as a "footballing incident".
Al Burayk does get back up after a few minutes, though, which is good to see.
19 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
That free kick chance is wasted, though, straight into the arms of the keeper.
Milik pulls back Al Amri by tugging on his shorts and becomes the third Poland player to pick up a booking in the first 20 minutes. Deservedly.
16 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
And now Cash, who has had a bit of a torrid start, is booked for a late tackle on Al Dawsari, who was breaking on the left. It was late, sliding in. That makes his job even tougher. Poland are not exactly under the cosh yet, but they are under pressure.
15 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
First booking of the game goes to Kiwior for a late, in the air lunge on Al Shehri.
13 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Brilliant, swift and decisive attacking play by Saudi Arabia. Kanno is part of some smart play on the right with Abdulhamid, a quick one two and he gets a shot away from inside the right edge of the box! It's heading for the top-right corner but Szczesny palms it over the bar for a Saudi Arabia corner.
11 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Krychowiak is fouled by Kanno as the Polish midfielder breaks, but I am not sure it was a foul. He got the ball and then he got caught himself.
9 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Dawsari already causing a few problems for Poland. Cash gets caught in possession around his own box... he does win a throw-in, but they are not exactly always easy to play from deep into your own half.
Now Poland break on the left... Al Bulayhi nearly miscues a cross into his own goal. Well, nearly is a bit strong, but it finds its way to the Saudi goalkeeper. And it could have gone anywhere.
7 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Al Burayk lets fly from distance... it's deflected wildly behind for a corner.
6 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
Poland without oo many touches, but they get their first attack which breaks down after Matty Cash miscues a cross from the right. Al Owais takes the lopping ball well under pressure.
4 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
It's a positive start for Saudi Arabia, a few neat passes around the Poland box. A few, though. And nothing comes of it as Al Wahbi Al Malki gives away a free kick.
2 mins: Poland 0 Saudi Arabia 0
This is in effect a home tie for Saudi Arabia. Every touch Poland take is booed by the vast majority of the crowd.
We are off! A pretty frantic opening 30 seconds. Lewandowski looks to have been fouled but nothing was given. Had his food trodden on.
Not long until kick off...
The first game of the day was pretty decent, whilst not of the highest quality. Let's hope for something similar now. Well, with perhaps a few more decisive moments.
Sam Dean: "I've had to put my jumper on"
By Sam Dean
One of the weirder elements of this World Cup is that some of the stadiums are genuinely quite cold. It's an absolutely sweltering day in Doha but I've just taken my seat at Education City Stadium and I've had to put a jumper on. The formidable power of air-con...!
Anyway, to the game itself. If Saudi Arabia win, they will be the first team to reach the knockout stages of this World Cup. Hands up, who saw that one coming? Robert Lewandowski stands in their way. He was dreadful against Mexico, before and after his missed penalty, but he can't be that bad again.
A draw in your first group game is often a funny thing
Depending on the standard of the opposition, it's generally a pretty solid result, and away from a morale-sapping loss. But it does not give you much room for error in your second game and that is what Poland are facing here. Saudi Arabia, with three points from their first game against Argentina, may as well throw caution to the wind. Free hit? Not quite.
How it stands in Group C
After one round of games:
Saudi Arabia 3pts (GD +1)
Poland 1pt (GD 0)
Mexico 1pt (GD 0)
Argentina 0pt (GD -1)
Last chance saloon for this generation of Poland players?
Saudi Arabia's green strip...
It's a kit that has some potential to become a cult classic, especially after it was worn during a historic upset against Argentina. But where does it rank in Thom Gibbs' kit ratings? Find out here.
The team news analysed...
Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz has beefed up his attack by including two strikers while Group C rivals Saudi Arabia have made three changes for their World Cup clash at the Education City Stadium on Saturday.
Michniewicz was criticised for a largely defensive lineup as Poland laboured in their goalless opener against Mexico on Tuesday and chose to pair up Robert Lewandowski with Arkadiusz Milik up front this time around.
The switch will be welcomed by Lewandowski, who has openly requested support in attacking duties in the recent months.
Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard made three changes to the side who stunned Argentina 2-1 in their opening game - two of them due to injuries - and brings in Abdulelah Al-Amri, Mohammed Al-Breik, Sami Al-Najei.
Poland's main man is in the building
Now we know the teams...predict the result
And compare your prediction with other readers.
The two teams...
Poland: Wojciech Szczesny, Kamil Glik, Jakub Kiwior, Matty Cash, Bartosz Bereszynski, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Piotr Zielinski, Krystian Bielik, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Robert Lewandowski
Saudi Arabia: Mohamed Al-Owais, Abdulelah Al-Amri, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Mohammed Al-Breik, Mohamed Kanno, Saud Abdulhamid, Abdulelah Al-Malki, Saleh Al-Shehri, Salem Al-Dawsari, Firas Al-Buraikan, Sami Al-Najei
Poland need Lewandowski in this kind of form
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) November 26, 2022
Poland and Saudi Arabia in contrasting moods
The pressure is on Poland this afternoon against Saudi Arabia as they try to avoid yet another disappointing showing at a major tournament.
Robert Lewandowski missed a penalty in their opening game draw against Mexico, and with Saudi Arabia unexpectedly taking three points from Argentina they face an uphill battle to reach the knockout stages. Poland's final group game is against Argentina. The mood in the camp is low and manager Czeslaw Michniewicz has been criticised for not maximising the talent available to him. Poland have not reached the World Cup last-16 since 1986, and will surely have to adopt a more adventurous approach to change that statistic.
"This result does not take away the chances of advancing further neither from us nor the Mexicans," Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said after Tuesday's stalemate.
Saudi Arabia on the other hand are buoyant after their remarkable showing against Argentina. Herve Renard's team were incredibly bold in their approach, squeezing Argentina's midfielders at every opportunity and holding one of the highest defensive lines in the tournament. They unsettled Argentina with their physicality and intensity out of possession, and were rewarded with a second-half comeback that toppled the second-favourites to win the tournament.
Salem Al Dawsari scored a spectacular winner and defender Hassan Al Tambakti was a colossus, celebrating tackles and blocks like goals. The result was so significant that a national holiday was declared in Saudi Arabia, with scenes of frenzied celebrations going viral online.
"Argentina is the champion of the Copa America and had not lost in the last 36 games, but you know what happens when a small team plays as we are neighbours of Qatar," Renard said.
"This contributed to the presence of a large number of our fans in the stadium. We had to think about it and think about the 35 million Saudis who waited for this match.
Full team news on the way shortly.