Of the four teams in the group, Poland are the only ones out of contention for qualification.
Group H has been full of surprises right from the first matchday. With Poland and Colombia dubbed to be favourites to come out of the group, they both slipped to 2-1 defeats on the first matchday against Senegal and Japan respectively. The shock wins by Japan and Senegal threw the early predictions in the bin and now, after the completion of two games, Japan, Senegal and Colombia stand a chance to progress further in the tournament, with Poland having been officially knocked out of the World Cup.
The draw that Senegal and Japan played out a few days ago was highly beneficial for Colombia as that gives them an opportunity to get back into the mix as they expertly thwarted Poland 3-0. The result meant that they were on three points against Japan and Senegal’s four.
Japan defeated Colombia and are in a solid position in the group
Colombia finally looked like the side that we thought we were going to see since the first game as they completely dismantled the Polish side led by Bayern Munich star striker Robert Lewandowski. The attacking quartet of James Rodriguez, Juan Quintero, Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao were on top form as they caused all sorts of problems to the Polish defence.
After opening the scoring with Yerry Mina right before halftime, the Colombians only seemed to pick up more confidence as they dominated both possession (55%) and the total number of shots taken (13). This victory saw Poland surrender their chances of going further in the World Cup.
James Rodrigues steered the win for Colombia in style
In the other fixture between Senegal and Japan, Sadio Mane opened the scoring for the Senegalese through a goalkeeping error, but the Japanese did not take long to respond with a goal of their own. This was the same when Senegal went back in front in the 71st minute, as the Japanese were relentless in their pursuit and snatched a goal back in the 80th minute. The game went back and forth throughout and it was one of the most exciting matches so far in this World Cup.
This brings us to the final matchday where Japan play the already knocked out Poland and Senegal face Colombia in a fight for one of the top two spots.
Japan currently sit top of the table by virtue of their team having collected fewer yellow cards (3) than Senegal (5). Japan’s criteria for qualification are plain and simple. In their match against Poland, should the Blue Samurai win, they qualify for the Round of 16. Should the Asian side draw, they will still progress. However, if they do lose their game against Poland, they will have to rely on Senegal beating Colombia.
Senegal proved to be lethal for Poland
Senegal on the other hand, are in a somewhat similar situation. They are currently level on points (4) with Japan. A draw against this Colombian side will guarantee them a place in the next round. A loss could possibly sabotage their chances, but if Poland also beat Japan by a bigger margin, Senegal have an opportunity to qualify. They could also top the group if Japan lose their match, or if Senegal beat Colombia by a bigger margin than that by which Japan beat Poland.
Colombia are in a sticky situation. A win against Senegal will guarantee them a spot in the final 16. A draw could also work in their favour, but they will have to rely on Japan losing their game against Poland. Colombia have an outside shot at qualifying and also an outside shot at topping the group should Japan lose their game and they beat Senegal.
Since Japan and Senegal are on identical points, goals for and against, should the two sides lose in a similar fashion, the team with a better fair play record will progress into the next round.
With all three teams standing a shot at qualifying for the next round, Group H is shaping up to have an exciting finish. Will Sadio Mane’s men cross the line triumphantly? Or will it be Makoto Hasebe’s Blue Samurais, or even Falcao’s Los Cafeteros, we’ll have to wait and see.