With all four teams on an equal footing at least on paper, this group is a hard one to call.
The world’s premier International footballing competition is set to make its return in Russia this summer and as fans of the beautiful game, we couldn’t be more excited. The World Cup finals will consist of eight groups (A-H) with four teams in each group and the top two teams progressing to the knockout rounds.
Group H, consisting of Japan, Senegal, Colombia and Poland promise the unexpected as all four of its teams are on an equal footing when it comes to form and quality. Each of the teams have stars from the world’s top clubs who are used to competing at the highest level.
Senegal look favourites to qualify, with the likes of Sadio Mane coming in on the back of an incredible season with Liverpool. The forward exemplifies what the African nation are all about, pace, power and desire. In defence, Kalidou Koulibaly will look to carry on his excellent Napoli form into Russia. The 26-year-old was an integral part of the team that took the eventual champions Juventus all the way in the title race.
James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski played for Bayern Munich last season
Senegal’s greatest weakness lies in the lack of the squad’s World Cup experience, with this being only the nation’s second appearance at the finals. However, with a manager who is not afraid to make the tough calls and a highly impressive squad, they will fancy their chances in group H.
Poland have a squad that has stayed together for the best part of four years. Their talisman, Robert Lewandowski will provide goals up top as was the theme set in qualifying, where they averaged almost three goals a game and ended up conceding more than any of the group winners. The Poles will hope that their free-scoring attack will be enough to make up for their shaky defence.
The surprise package of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Colombia, will also fancy their chances to go through to the knockout stages of the tournament with Monaco’s Radamel Falcao having recovered from his troubles and Bayern’s James Rodriguez coming in on the back of an excellent season with the club after his loan move from Real Madrid. The Colombians will almost certainly bring a dose of flair and panache to the group.
The three pillars of Japan – Kagawa, Okazaki and Honda
Meanwhile, Japan look like the underdogs of the group, with a large portion of their squad being inexperienced at the highest level. Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, former AC Milan man, Keisuke Honda and Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki will form the attacking spine of the Japanese team that will look to take revenge on the Colombians for the 4-1 drubbing in the competition four years ago.
Senegal secured their qualification in dramatic fashion, beating South Africa 2-1 with the winner coming in injury-time. The Senegalese finished top of Group D and secured their berth in Russia.
Poland’s lofty FIFA ranking of #7 can be largely attributed to their stellar qualifying campaign. They won eight out of their 10 games and finished above a highly-talented Danish squad. However, their last World Cup outing was in 2006, which makes most of the squad newcomers to the biggest stage of them all. However, with the experienced Adam Nawalka at the helm, Poland will fancy their chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the tournament.
The Colombians finished second in the CONMEBOL Qualifiers behind a resurgent Argentina with its stars, Falcao, Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado all putting in shifts for their country. A major concern for the South American team will be if Tottenham Hotspur defender, Davison Sanchez is mature enough at 21, to man the defence against some of football’s best forwards.
Japan reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia after their 2-0 win against Australia on 31 August 2017, which sealed progression from Group B in the third round of Asian qualifying. However, the Blue Samurai will face an uphill battle despite their relative recent World Cup experience.
Group H exemplifies what the World Cup is all about, unpredictability and excitement at its finest. Nobody can afford to slip up or they risk losing out on progression. We can be sure of only one thing, we’re in for a treat.