FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Looking at their qualifiers, Poland was faced against Denmark, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan. As expected, Poland went through their group with relative ease, losing only 1 game in the process to Denmark (4:0). In the course of 10 games, they have scored 28 goals and conceded 14, which is a bit too much. Much of their success is thanks to Lewandowski’s great performances, as he has scored 16 goals in 10 games, which is surprisingly almost 60% of all goals. Of course, he is not the only “good player” in Poland’s squad. They have got a decent team all around with names such as Kamil Glik, Lukas Piszczek, Piotr Zielinski, Wojciech Szczesny,… Despite their good result, it’s obvious Poland needs to focus more on their defence as they let too many goals in. In qualifiers, they have conceded 14 goals, which is a clear sign their defence is not at the level it should be. In addition, Poland seems to rely too much on Lewandowski to score all their goals.
Star player: Robert Lewandowski
Prediction: Repeating their success from Euro 2016 is not likely to happen. I could see them advancing into top 8, but even that will be hard once they face England/Belgium.
Senegal is back at the World cup for the second time. Looking at their “road to World cup”, Senegal topped their qualifying group which consisted of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa, with an overall score of 4-2-0. It’s been a straightforward campaign for them, and now they will have a chance to go against one of the best international teams. With arguably the strongest team in Africa, we expect them to show their worth in group H. They might not end up advancing, but will be a dangerous team to anyone who will underestimate them. To be fair, with names such as Mane, Koulibaly, Niang, Sakho etc. they should be taken too lightly by anyone.
Star player: Kalidou Koulibaly
Prediction: I don’t see them leaving group H.
Columbia has just barely qualified for the World Cup, finishing 4th in their group. However, looking at their group, which is arguably the hardest qualifying group, so finishing 4th is not as bad as it seems. Comparing this year’s team to 2014 one, Columbia are seemingly stronger, especially with Falcao back on the team and Rodriguez developing in a world-class player since 2014. Despite their quality on both sides of the pitch, Columbia are somewhat inconsistent, losing to Paraguay at home (1:2) and drawing against Venezuela (0:0) during their qualifiers, which almost cost them a spot in the World Cup. Hopefully, we will see more organised Columbia this year, as they do have the team to go into top 8 or maybe even further. They are somewhere in between. On one side they can surprise even the favourites and on the other side, Columbia could as easily be eliminated by an underdog.
Star player: James Rodriguez
Prediction: Columbia should come out of the group, if they can find a solution to their inconsistency, however, they should not underestimate Japan and Senegal.
Japan is coming into this World Cup after finishing 1st in their qualifying group, a point ahead of Saudi Arabia and Australia. The group consisted of Saudi Arabia, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Thailand. They are in a weird position, as their manager Vahid Halilhodzic has been sacked just 2 months before the start of the World Cup. The new coach Akira Nishino has a tough start of his career ahead of him, as he will be playing his 1st game against Columbia. In addition, the strategy of the new coach is unknown. Halilhodzic has had a unique strategy which led Algeria to top 16 in Brazil, and Japan wanted the same. Now with a new coach, Japan will need to adapt to new style quickly, from possession-based style to more defensive one. All in all, Japan is not in the best spot right now and I do not see them producing anything memorable this year. They might come out of this tournament with a slightly better result than in 2014 (1 point), but seeing them in top 16 is unlikely.
Star player: Maya Yoshida
Prediction: The group they are in is just too strong for Japan to see them advancing into top 16.