Group H sees Poland in their first World Cup finals since 2006, facing Japan in their sixth consecutive finals; Senegal, who reached the last eight in their only World Cup final in 2002, and Colombia, a nation perennially on the verge of having a good team.

Soccer World Cup Group H Predictions

PROFILE: POLAND

Poland World Cup

FIFA Ranking 10th World Cup Base Location Sochi
How they qualified Won Group E, ahead of Denmark, suffering only one defeat.
Form in 2017/18 P7, W4, D1, L2 (includes 4 World Cup qualifiers: W3, L1)

 

World Cup Record: 7 Tournaments
Played: 31 Draws: 5 Scored: 44 Penalty Shootout Wins:
Wins: 15 Losses: 11 Conceded: 40 0 out of 0

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
1938, 2002, 2006 1978, 1986, 1974, 1982

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Colombia Never played before
Japan Never played before
Senegal Never played before

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 75.00 Group H Winner 1.75
To Reach Final Yes (17.00), No (0.01) Elimination Stage Round of 16 (1.60)
Top Goalscorer Lewandowski (0.40), Milik (6.00), Kownacki (6.00)

 

If you believe reports, Robert Lewandowski is Poland’s World Cup squad and after he set a European qualifying record with 16 goals in the 10 group games, it’s not hard to see why.

However, the upside is that a striker with his ability offers the prospect of winning any match provided the Poles can keep things tight at the back. Coach Adam Nawalka has instilled a strong work ethic in his team to follow that strategy.

A former international himself, Nawalka is building on after reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and is confident of reaching the knockout stage. His squad contains a healthy sprinkling of players from some of Europe’s top clubs.

The intriguing decision surrounds the goalkeepers. Lukasz Fabianski established himself as #1 during the qualifiers following a good showing at Euro 2016. However, as Wojciech Szczesny took greater prominence within the Juventus camp, the younger of the pair was recalled to the starting line-up. Taking over from Gianluigi Buffon gives Szczesny the chance to prove his critics from his Arsenal days wrong.

Ahead of them, there is a strong unit with Monaco’s title-winner Kamel Glik at its’ heart. With Dortmund’s Lukasz Piszczek pushing forward quickly on the right, the transition play can be breathtakingly quick.

LewandowskiAdding Piotr Zielinski of Napoli to the starting line-up during qualifying added a creative dimension to the Poles which was missing at the European Championships. With Lewandowski in prolific form, Biało-czerwoni have potential to do better than many expect.

The dark horse in the squad is Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik. After misfiring in Germany, he rose to prominence with Ajax. The injury is wrecking his time with the Partenopei, but he is still scoring every 2 – 3 games despite not being first-choice at the moment.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 2nd in Group H, and a Round of Sixteen exit to Belgium.

Poland won Group E of the UEFA qualifying campaign ahead of Denmark. It was a relatively straightforward affair with only the 4 – 0 defeat in Copenhagen giving pause for thought.

Eight wins out of ten, with one draw, came with 28 goals. Lewandowski scored 16, but there was also a healthy spread of goals among the other forwards. Critically, the Bayern striker opened the scoring in only three games of the ten.

Poland doesn’t wait for Lewandowski before springing into life which will serve them well.

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PROFILE: COLOMBIA

World Cup Colombia

FIFA Ranking 16th World Cup Base Location Kazan
How they qualified Finished 4th, one point ahead of Peru and Chile.
Form in 2017/18 P8, W2, D4, L2 (includes 4 World Cup qualifiers: D3, L1)

 

World Cup Record: 5 Tournaments
Played: 18 Draws: 2 Scored: 26 Penalty Shootout Wins:
Wins: 7 Losses: 9 Conceded: 27 0 out of 0

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
1962, 1994, 1998 1990 2014

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Japan Played 1, Won 1 Last match: 4 – 1, 2014, Group Stage
Poland Never played before
Senegal Never played before

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 35.00 Group H Winner 1.25
To Reach Final Yes (13.00), No (0.01) Elimination Stage Quarter-Final (3.25)
Top Goalscorer Rodriguez (3.00); Falcao (3.50); Bacca (4.00)

 

Colombia arrive at the World Cup finals with once again a weight of expectation on their shoulders. Radamel Falcao is at his first and last World Cup as his career winds down while James Rodriguez returns to the international stage after his award-winning goal against Uruguay in 2014. His move to Real Madrid was sealed before the finals began, but his Maracanã wonder-strike emphasized the relative bargain the Spaniards thought they landed.

Falcao, after a horrendous spell in English football, has returned to France and rediscovered his scoring touch with 54 goals in 79 games.

There’s a strong sense of energy in the squad but a concerning lack of goals; only one of the last seven qualifying games saw them score more than one goal.

Which forces Jose Pekerman into using a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 formation, exploiting the pace of Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Sanchez as providers for Falcao. The other strike options for the Argentinean manager are limited: Carlos Bacca, who seems unable to transfer his club form to the international stage, the goal-shy Luis Muriel or the unlikely pair of Borja and Izquierdo.

Yet for all their weaknesses, Colombia are savvy enough to know how to progress through the group stage at the finals. The motivation for finding answers to their goal problem is avoiding perennial dark horses Belgium in the Round of Sixteen.

Pekerman phased in the highly-rated Yerry Mina of Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur’s Davidson Sanchez. The defence is completed with left-back Frank Fabra and on the right Santi Arias.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 1st in Group H.

Colombia qualified for the finals finishing 4th in the South American qualifying group and after a run where they seemed intent on pressing the self-destruct button. Inconsistency dogged them as they suffered five defeats and grateful for Chile’s 3 – 0 defeat in Brazil on the final day.

As that happened, Colombia drew 1 – 1 in Peru with a bizarre David Ospina own goal giving the players a nervous final ten-minute spell at the end of the match.

Since then, the real Colombia surfaced. A stunning 3 – 2 win in Paris – retrieving a 2 – 0 deficit – and a goalless draw in Russia, underlined the quality within their squad.

PROFILE: JAPAN     

Japan Flag                 

FIFA Ranking 60th World Cup Base Location Kazan
How they qualified Finished top of AFC Group B, ahead of Australia and Saudi Arabia
Form in 2017/18 P9, W3, D1, L5 (includes 2 World Cup qualifiers: W1, L1)

 

World Cup Record: 5 tournaments
Played: 17 Draws: 4 Scored: 14 Penalty Shootout Wins:
Wins: 4 Losses: 9 Conceded: 22 0 out of 1

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
1998, 2006, 2014 2002, 2010

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Colombia Played 1, Lost 1 Last match: 1 – 4, 2014, Group Stage
Poland Never played before
Senegal Never played before

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 400.00 Group H Winner 6.75
To Reach Final Yes (124.00), No (0.01) Elimination Stage Group Stage (0.35)
Top Goalscorer Honda (3.00); Haraguchi (4.00); Okazaki (4.00)

 

Japan feature in their sixth consecutive World Cup finals, underlining the great step forward football has made in the country. The consistency of qualifying is commendable, but more positivity is drawn from the two quarter-final appearances. If history repeats itself, Russia 2018 will be a third.

That’s a tough ask of the Samurai Blue. They rank 32 places below Senegal according to FIFA; while the official ratings are unreliable, they aren’t that unreliable.

Matters aren’t helped by the recent change in head coach. Akira Nishino was appointed last month when most of his peers were working on the final planning for their opening games. Not that Japan will be unprepared; their plans just got put together much quicker than everyone else.

Three defeats in ten left genuine concerns at the damage to the game if the national team failed as badly as in 2014. Expectations aren’t so high as thinking the Blue Samurai can win the tournament, but they do not want to win just one point again. Defeat can be as demoralising for the stands as it is the players; decimation worse.

The JFA acted and Nishino has the basis of a decent team. Sakai and Nagatomo are Asia’s most consistent full-backs while Yoshida impressed as Southampton won their battle against relegation from the English Premier League.

Yamaguchi is the creative hub with captain Hasebe providing a defensive shield. He will need to be on his guard; Honda hasn’t netted for Japan in two seasons while Kagawa and Okazaki are the leaders in his scoring absence.

Strangely, Japan are based in Kazan. With none of their group games played there, it was either a misjudgement or someone at the JFA is very confident of reaching the knockout phase…

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 4th in Group H.

Australia’s presence in the AFC qualifying campaign raises the competitiveness facing Japan at the start of the campaign. Defeat at home to UAE wasn’t part of the schedule but served as a wake-up call; Japan didn’t lose again until the final game in Saudi Arabia. Had they drawn in Riyadh, Australia would be at the World Cup.

Honda’s absence from the scoresheet underlines an issue Japan struggles to overcome: only once did they score more than two goals and in ten matches, they managed to net 17 times. Not an impressive average and one which makes it hard to think they will progress beyond the group stage.

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PROFILE: SENEGAL   

Senegal Flag               

FIFA Ranking 28th World Cup Base Location Kaluga
How they qualified Top of Group D
Form in 2017/18 P8, W3, D4, L1 (includes 3 World Cup qualifiers: W1, D1)

 

World Cup Record: 1 Tournaments
Played: 5 Draws: 2 Scored: 7 Penalty Shootout Wins:
Wins: 2 Losses: 1 Conceded: 6 0 out of 0

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarter-Final Semi-Final Final
2002

 

World Cup Head to Head Records
Colombia Never played before
Japan Never played before
Poland Never played before

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 250.00 Group H Winner 4,50
To Reach Final Yes (49.00), No (0.01) Elimination Stage Group Stage (0.55)
Top Goalscorer Mane (3.00), Diouf (4.00), Sow (7.00)

 

The Senegal 2018 World Cup finals squad has a lot to live up to. Sixteen years have passed since the country’s only previous appearance at the finals, one which saw them defeat defending champions France.

It was the second such shock result, replicating Cameroon’s achievements in 1990 when they sent then-defending champions Argentina crunching to the turf in a 1 – 0 defeat.

The Lions of Teranga had a far more comfortable qualification process than their group opponents. In a six-match group, they finished five ahead of Burkina Faso in second place and ten ahead of South Africa.

Coach Aliou Cisse is a tie between the past and present, having been captain of the 2002 squad in Japan/South Korea. But his is not a project undertaken lightly; it’s been three years in the making. Selection for the squad has been evolutionary, gradual replacements made rather than a drastic overhaul and the qualifying campaign was the culmination of that.

Senegal World CupTheir star player is Sadio Mane, who will link up with the squad after the Champions League final. From a promising start at Southampton, he has proven himself in the English game at Anfield becoming one of the most electrifying strikers in the Premier League with 32 goals in 72 appearances for Liverpool.

He and Moussa Sow are the best hope of scoring enough to push Poland and Colombia for qualification. The fixture list for the group gives them a good chance of doing just that. Opening against Poland, they finish against Colombia; a point in the opener and then victory over Japan may be enough to see them over the line.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 3rd in Group H.

Qualifying was straightforward but not without controversy. Senegal were unbeaten in six, winning four of their games but only at the second attempt. An initial 2 – 1 defeat to South Africa was reversed after referee Joseph Lamptey was found to have “unlawfully influenced” the result by awarding a penalty against Senegal. FIFA would ban him for life.

That was the highlight of the campaign; everything else was a procession with a healthy spread of goals among the squad. It’s a positive upon which Senegal will build. While the knockout phase seems unlikely, it can’t be entirely ruled out.

Soccer World Cup Group Previews and Predictions

Soccer World Cup Preview – Group A (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, IR Iran)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group C (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group G (Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)

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 *Please note – odds mentioned above are correct at time of publishing but are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

**Certain tournaments had slightly different formats in the past, so the placing most aligned to the current tournament format has been chosen.

 

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