MOSCOW, RUSSIA – In the build up to the World Cup, Britwatch Sports will look at every group and give our predictions on who will finish where. Today we look at the final pool Group H, which features Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan.
June 19th: Colombia vs Japan (13:00)
June 19th: Poland vs Senegal (16:00)
June 24th: Japan vs Senegal (16:00)
June 24th: Poland vs Colombia (19:00)
June 28th: Japan vs Colombia (15:00)
June 28th: Senegal vs Poland (15:00)
Poland enter the tournament with arguably their strongest group of payer since the mid seventies. Led by Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich man was top scorer across all qualifying codes and is in the sort of form that could set Russia alight this summer.
But is not just Lewy who sets the Poles apart. Napoli duo Piotr Zielinksi and Arkadiusz Milik provide an offensive menace for the Red and Whites, whilst Hull City’s Kamil Grosicki and relative veteran Jakub Blaszczykowski still has a turn of place and is often the designated penalty taker for Adam Nawalka’s men.
Defensively however, there may be questions. With Kamil Glik ruled out for the opening two games with injury, Jan Bednarek will be tasked with the leg work at the back which could open up the Poles to problems.
I fully expect their attack however to be enough the progress through the group, which could present a last 16 tie with England in few weeks time. That could be a very tight contest but in any event, a knockout stage berth would be viewed as a success.
Four years on from a wonderful World Cup in Brazil, Colombian expectations are again relatively modest. With players of the ilk of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao however, the Coffee Growers will always carry a threat.
Colombia were one of the more enjoyable sides to watch in 2014, but goals have become an issue of late having failed to win in their last six games. If Jose Pekerman’s side do tick however, they boast a range of attacking options in Jose Izquierdo, Carlos Bacca, Luis Muriel and Juan Quintero. In defence, Spurs’ Davinson Sanchez and Barcelona man Yerry Mina are one to watch.
Another potential opponent for the Three Lions, Colombia should reach Round two but beyond that their participation for me is in doubt.
Senegal for me are one of the more unknown quantities in this World Cup. Unfortunately for them, the Africans are in one of the stronger groups this summer.
Few can refute their attacking treasures at their disposal. In Sadio Mane, the Lions of Teranga has one of football’s speedsters but the Liverpool man is not alone. AS Monaco’s Keita Balde and Stoke’s Mame Biram Diouf are form an attacking unit that could surprise a few.
With a Midfield made up exclusively of English-based players, Idrissa Gueye and Cheikh Kouyate make up the Senegalese spine ahead of Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and Salif Sane as the likely partnership.
I can see Senegal getting out the group stages with their huge firepower, but like usual they look a little shaky at the back. The bigger task is finishing ahead of both Colombia and Poland. If they can do that, then much like in 2002, the African side could be a threat in the knockout stages.
If Group H wasn’t strong enough, a well-organised Japan side complete the pool. Creativity could be an issue for the Samurai Blue, with veteran Shinji Okazaki set to compete in a fourth World Cup for his country.
Usual suspects Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda will again pull on the Japanese shirt, whilst at the back Saints defender Maya Yoshida will lead from the back and the Asians will have width on the flanks with both Yuto Nagatomo and Hiroki Sakai.
The truth is, in a Group of the this quality Japan could get left behind. However I am not dismissing Japan, in fact any two of four could progress here. But I expect them to finish propping up the table.
The XXI FIFA World Cup Starts on June 14, as Russia host Saudi Arabia in the tournament’s curtain-raiser in Moscow at 4pm UK time.
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