2018 World Cup Group H – Preview and Betting Prediction

by Forrest Vaughn
on March 27, 2018

Group H does not contain any of the giants in the likes of France, Brazil and Germany, but that’s not to say viewers won’t be in for some quality matches. James Rodriguez-led Colombia is one of the strongest up and coming soccer nations of the past decade, they possess great quality all-around. Poland’s Lewandowski will look to take his country to the next level in his last chance at the World Cup in his prime years, whereas Senegal is perfectly capable of pulling of yet another upsetting run as they did 16 years ago.

It will come down to the wire and experience will certainly play its part as the pressure looms on the biggest stage in world soccer. Read on for my detailed preview of each team and their form in light of the main event in Russia.

Poland

  • Group Winner Odds: +165
  • Tournament Winner Odds: +5000
  • FIFA Ranking: 6
  • Manager: Adam Nawałka
  • Key Players: A. Milik, R. Lewandowski, P. Zielinski, G. Krychowiak, K. Grosicki, L. Piszczek

Poland will be making their first World Cup appearance in 12 years. They blazed through the qualification process with ease, winning 8 out of their 10 matches and scoring 28 goals. 16 of those 28 goals belong to their main man Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern forward was top scorer during the qualifiers, and he will be the one leading his nation in Russia, where they have a realistic hope of reaching the knockout stage.

Besides their successful qualifying run, Poland also appeared at the Euro 2016 in France. They made it through to the knockouts by coming 2nd in their group, where they managed to hold Germany to a draw. They beat Switzerland in the quarter-final on penalties but suffered the same fate against Portugal in the semi-final.

Poland’s overall run at the Euro was impressive, but their match by match results, not so much. They failed to score more than one goal in a single match during the course of the entire tournament, whereas their only win in the knockout phase came through penalties.

In Russia, Lewandowski will have some of the burden lifted thanks to Napoli striker A. Milik, who’s been having a great season so far. In midfield, Adam Nawałka can count on Zielinski and Krychowiak. However, defense is Poland’s biggest weakness, with no notable names to speak of. For what it’s worth, they do posses two quality options in goal in Szczęsny and Fabiański.

I think Poland has what it takes to qualify to the knockout stage. Their match vs Colombia will be the one to watch, but even if they conquer their group, I still feel that Poland’s squad lacks the quality for a deep run in the tournament.

Senegal

  • Group Winner Odds: +450
  • Tournament Winner Odds: +15000
  • FIFA Ranking: 27
  • Manager: Aliou Cissé
  • Key Players: S. Mané, K. Koulibaly, K. Balde

Senegal will be making their second ever World Cup appearance in Russia. In their first one in 2002, Senegal put on a show by beating France in the group stage and making it to the quarter finals. Can they pull it off again? They certainly have the talent to do so.

Cissé will have to choose between several devastating options in attack. Liverpool forward Sadio Mané has proven his world class status this season, scoring 14 goals and assisting 7 in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League combined. There’s also Bursaspor’s Moussa Sow, who is still in great form despite his ripe old age of 32. They will be supported by 23-year-old Monaco star Keita Balde and 30-year-old veteran Mame Diouf.

In midfield, Senegal has several destroyers in Cheikhou Kouyate, N’Diaye and Everton-man Idrissa Gueye. They may lack in the creativity department, but Senegal’s game plan will involve winning the ball in midfield and quickly transitioning on the counter attack with the help of Mane and Sow’s devastating pace on the flanks. In defense, the backbone will be provided by Napoli’s Koulibaly and Papiss Djibodji, both in great form for their respective clubs this season.

I think Senegal will be a heavy contender for that second place. If they see off Japan, their match vs Poland on the 19th of June will prove all the more interesting.

Colombia

  • Group Winner Odds: +125
  • Tournament Winner Odds: +2200
  • FIFA Ranking: 13
  • Manager: José Pékerman
  • Key Players: J. Rodriguez, D. Sanchez, F. Caicedo, J. Cuadrado

Colombia looks like a real dark horse coming into Russia. They surprised the world 4 years ago in Brazil, where they reached the quarter finals with their star player James Rodriguez scoring 6 goals.

The Colombians earned their ticket to Russia by placing 4th in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, just one point short of Argentina. Caicedo topped the scoring charts with 7 goals. James Rodriguez scored 6 and played a crucial role for his team.

Defense has been a worrisome aspect for the Colombians in recent history, but things are looking up thanks to a few rising youngsters having breakout seasons. Namely, Tottenham’s Davison Sanchez who will be joined by Barcelona’s Yerry Mina. Colombia’s defensive backbone will be completed by veteran Cristian Zapata.

In Midfield, Pékerman can count on Barrios, the explosive Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez. Upfront, Sevilla-man L. Muriel will fight for a place with Colombia legend Falcao and Carlos Bacca. Looking at their players, it’s evident that Colombia is a complete team capable of emulating their success from 4 years ago. I think they will finish at the top of their group, as their squad is more well-rounded than Poland’s.

Japan

  • Group Winner Odds: +750
  • Tournament Winner Odds: +30000
  • FIFA Ranking: 55
  • Manager: Vahid Halilhodžić
  • Key Players: S. Kagawa, S. Okazaki

It took Japan 64 years to mark their first ever World Cup appearance, but ever since then (1998) they haven’t missed it once. Their best results so far have been reaching the round of 16, in 2002 and 2010, but their chances are of a repeat success are looking grim in Russia.

Japan reserved their ticket to the World Cup by narrowly topping their tightly contested Asian qualifying group with 20 points, just one more than Saudi Arabia and Australia. Japan also appeared in the E-1 Football Championship, where they proved better than China PR and Korea DPR, but were bested by Korea Republic.

Japan’s shaky results versus weaker opponents in the likes of Saudi Arabia and Australia just goes to show why they’re seen as an outsider for their group in Russia. Despite winning their qualification group, it was only by a slim margin. Vahid Halilhodžić will have to pull a miracle if they are to go through, as the quality disparity between them and the likes of Colombia and Poland is simply too large to ignore.

Conclusion/Prediction

Group H seems simple enough on paper, with Colombia and Poland expected to dominate. However, Senegal will be right up there in the race for second place, or perhaps even first with the help of Sadio Mane. If history has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen at the World Cup. Below you’ll find my predictions, but in terms of betting, Group H is as volatile as they come.

Overall Group Standings Prediction:

  • 1. Colombia
  • 2. Poland
  • 3. Senegal
  • 4. Japan
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