Ever wonder what soccer would look like if played by wizards?
Yeah, me neither.
Still, Senegal’s M’Baye Niang gave us a glimpse by using a dab of sorcery — and/or luck — to put the team’s lead over Poland out of reach in the group stage of the World Cup.
To Poland, at least, it seemed like Niang had the advantage of an invisibility cloak.
The forward left the pitch with an ankle injury in the second half. Then he checked in at midfield during play to await a signal from the ref.
He got one right after Poland headed the ball deep into Senegal’s half.
But soon after he retook the pitch, Niang’s teammate played the ball back out to midfield. The forward wisely (or fortunately) milled near the back line instead of making his return known, and Polish defender Grzegorz Krychowiak failed to recognize his presence.
Niang, perhaps camouflaged by his pitch-colored jersey, pounced on Krychowiak’s back pass and gave his side a 2-0 lead.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) June 19, 2018
You can see the ref wave him on at the :40 second mark of this video.
Niang slips behind the defense to score Senegal’s second goal of the day! pic.twitter.com/z7zJWiqxxz
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 19, 2018
A version of this play happens all the time in hockey.
We’ve even seen something like it in an NBA game.
But this is the first time I’ve seen the hidden player trick in a soccer match. Whether Niang meant to do it or not.
Even if he didn’t, it might be a strategy to consider in the future, no matter how unlikely another success may be.