Poland will lament the misfortune of Thiago Cionek's own goal, but they only had themselves to blame for losing this match.
Poland go into the Group H match at Moscow's Spartak Stadium as favourites and are expected to emerge from a section also featuring Colombia and Japan.
Both the teams have suffered a long wait to qualify for a World Cup tournament as Poland played last at 2006 World Cup, while Senegal played in 2002 World Cup, which was the only World Cup tournament in which it qualified. But coach Aliou Cisse said beating the Poles didn't have the same history-making feel of the 1-0 victory in 2002 against the French, Senegal's former colonial masters. "It's time now to give us all in Africa one opportunity to win a World Cup".
The Polish defence looked uncertain from the start, although the goal they conceded in the 37th minute was down to misfortune.
Senegal took up a leading role in Group H with a resounding win over Poland.
Nawalka sent on Southampton defender Jan Bednarek at halftime - Jakub Blaszczykowski making way on his 100th worldwide appearance - as Cionek's own goal ensured that Poland's 32-year wait for a clean sheet at the World Cup goes on.
The Polish side were disappointing in all areas and will expect to improve before they face Columbia in their second group game. M'Baye Niang sprinted back on to the field of play after injury and immediately intercepted Grzegorz Krychowiak's backpass from midfield. "I'm getting phone calls from everywhere".
Japan's Yuya Osako got the all-important victor in the second half with 17 minutes remaining on the watch, but the South American could not come back as they did in the first half.
It was the same for Ghana in 2010 when the World Cup was held in Africa for the first time.