For unfashionable teams, Poland and Senegal feature quite glamorous stars.
Poland captain Robert Lewandowski led European qualifying with 16 goals, one more than Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and scored five goals in a nine-minute span for Bayern Munich against Wolfsburg in February.
Senegal’s Sadio Mane scored 20 goals this season for Liverpool, including 10 in the Champions League, and had the fastest hat trick in Premier League history when he got three goals in a 176-second span for Southampton against Aston Villa in May 2015.
Led by dynamic attackers in their prime, both nations return to the World Cup on Tuesday night after lengthy absences. A winner would have a good chance to advance from a group that includes Colombia and Japan.
Under coach Adam Nawalka, who played for his nation at the 1982 World Cup, Poland has improved from 76th in the FIFA rankings in 2013 to eighth – one shy of the nation’s high set last year.
Poland finished third in the 1974 World Cup with Grzegorz Lato and in 1982 with Zbigniew Boniek.
It was knocked out in the round of 16 in 1986, then didn’t qualify until 2002, when it lost its first two games and already was eliminated before beating the U.S. in its group stage finale.
The Poles lost their first two games again in 2006 before a meaningless match against Costa Rica and have not been back since.
Senegal, a former French colony that gained independence in 1960, made one previous World Cup appearance and debuted with a shocking victory: 1-0 over defending champion France 1-0 in the 2002 opener. The Lions of Teranga advanced to the quarterfinals before a 1-0 extra-time loss to Turkey.
After upsetting France in Seoul, South Korea, on a goal by Papa Bouba Diop, thousands of people danced in the streets of Dakar after the final whistle at 1:30 a.m. local time and President Abdoulaye Wade declared a national holiday.
Diop ran to the corner flag after scoring, took off his jersey and put it on the field and formed a circle with teammates to dance around the garb.
Poland’s goalkeepers include former Arsenal teammates Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski.
Senegal, coached by 2002 captain Aliou Cisse, has a roster stocked with regulars based in England who include midfielders Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate, Cheikh N’Doye, Alfred N’Diaye and Badou Ndiaye. Forwards include Mame Biram Diouf.