WORLD CUP PREVIEW GROUP H
Poland – Robert Lewandowski was the star man as Poland qualified top of Group E with 25 points. The Bayern Munich striker scored 15 goals as he finished top scorer in the whole of the European qualifying campaign.
Senegal – Unbeaten in qualifying, Senegal comfortably finished top of their final group with 14 points from 6 games. Qualification was secured on 10 November 2017 with a 2-0 victory against South Africa in a game that had to be replayed due to the referee of the original game receiving a lifetime ban.
Colombia – In a highly competitive qualifying group in South America, Colombia ended the campaign in 4th place with 27 points from 18 games. Qualification was secured on the final match day with a 1-1 draw against Peru.
Japan – Japan finished up winners of Group B in the Asia side of qualifying. Genki Haraguchi finished top scorer with 4 goals as Japan sealed qualification on 31st August with a 2-0 win over 3rd place Australia.
Poland – Robert Lewandowski
After scoring more than half of Poland’s goals in qualifying, Lewandowski will no doubt be the most important player for Poland. In what could be the most competitive group in the tournament, can Lewandowski grab the goals to give Poland the edge?
Senegal – Sadio Mane
Liverpool forward Mane will be vital to Senegal’s chances in the group. If he can find the form he produced in Liverpool’s Champions League campaign, Mane will be a real handful for any defence.
Colombia – Radamel Falcao
A serious knee injury forced Falcao to miss the whole of the last World Cup and he will no doubt be looking to make up for lost time. Surely James Rodriguez will not be able to live up to his incredible performance in 2014 so Colombia will need their captain and experienced striker to contribute.
Japan – Keisuke Honda
Experienced playmaker Honda has plenty of international experience and has scored 36 goals for Japan since his debut in 2008. With Japan having probably the weakest squad in the group, they will need their key players to step up and Honda will be one of those.
This is the hardest group to predict with any team capable of going through or crashing out. With Lewandowski up front and talented midfielder Piotr Zielinski I feel Poland will have the edge. Zielinski will be one to watch this tournament with the ability to announce himself on the world stage.
Senegal may not be that well fancied to go through but with a solid base in midfield provided by Idrissa Gueye and Cheikhou Kouyate, Senegal may have the right balance to really unleash Sadio Mane here.
If, and I can’t see it happening, James Rodriguez reproduces the same form as the 2014 World Cup, then Colombia will breeze through. Being Colombia’s star man there is no doubt other teams will have plans to stop him and I can see Colombia making a bit of a surprise early exit.
With Poland, Senegal and Colombia each having one or two real top-quality players, I feel Japan will fall short here. I don’t see Honda and other star man Kagawa being on the same level as Lewandowski, Mane or Rodriguez.
Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan – 12/1
Sadio Mane group top scorer – 11/1
Colombia 3rd place finish – 7/2
– Robert Shiers