World Cup Group H Preview: Key stats, info and odds
Senegal and Colombia amongst the contenders
The World Cup countdown is on and so is our guide to the eight groups and 32 teams set to compete in Russia.
The Coral News Team have been previewing all of the groups day-by-day ahead of the start of the tournament on Thursday 14th June. Today’s focus is on Group H.
Manager: Adam Nawalka has only ever managed in Poland. He replaced Waldemar Fornalik as national team boss in 2013.
Best WC result: The Poles have twice finished third at the World Cup, first in 1974 and then 1982.
How they play: Tactically, Poland are pretty flexible. Expect them to utilise a 3-4-3 system in Russia with particular emphasis on Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski.
One to watch: Everyone knows about the quality of Lewandowski. But it’s Napoli star Zielinski who could shine brightest. The 23-year-old has addressed the creative hole at the heart of Bialo-czerwoni and looks set for a big tournament.
Things to consider: Can they get the balance right? While Poland may have bagged an impressive 28 goals in qualifying they shipped 14 at the other end. They’ll need to replicate their defensive tightness from Euro 2016, where they conceded just two goals on their way to a quarter-final berth.
If it all comes together, then the Poles could be set for a second successive last-eight spot. However, they’ll need to negotiate a dangerous group first.
Manager: Aliou Cisse was appointed to the role in 2015 after a two-year spell as Under-23s manager. He captained the country at the 2002 World Cup.
Best WC result: Senegal made a big impression in their only World Cup appearance to date. The Lions of Teranga beat holders France on their way to the quarter-finals in 2002, where they were knocked out via a golden goal by Turkey.
How they play: An impressive array of attacking players should see Senegal line-up in a solid 4-3-3 formation which allows the forwards to flourish.
One to watch: Could it be anyone other than Sadio Mane? The 26-year-old has thrived in his second season with Liverpool and rounded off a tremendous campaign with a goal in the Champions League Final.
Things to consider: This is a Senegal squad littered with talent. Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, Keita Balde and the aforementioned Mane are all top-class performers. In many senses they’re not too dissimilar in their make-up to the side that performed so admirably in 2002.
They’ll go to Russia as underdogs. But in a group without a standout team, don’t be surprised if they make a positive impression in only their second World Cup appearance.
Manager: Wily old fox Jose Pekerman will be making his third World Cup appearance after guiding Argentina in 2006 and Colombia in 2014.
Best WC result: La Tricolor made it to the quarter-finals four years ago before bowing out to Brazil on penalties.
How they play: Colombia have switched it up in recent times but look set to utilise their solid defence and impressive pace going forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
One to watch: James Rodriguez hasn’t had a great time of it since moving to Real Madrid off the back of his displays at the 2014 World Cup. Expect him to thrive in the number 10 role once again in Russia.
Things to consider: There’s plenty of balance about this Colombia side. All the talk will be about their dangerous attacking unit – and rightly so. But their defence is what could prove their most vital asset.
Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina, Santiago Arias and Frank Fabra are a formidable four who provide a firm base for the forward talents to flourish. Add in Pekerman’s experience as boss and you have one of the canniest teams at the tournament.
Manager: Akira Nishino was appointed in April 2018 following the departure of Vahid Halilhodzic.
Best WC result: Two last-16 appearances are all Japan has to show for their World Cup endeavours since first qualifying for the tournament in 1998.
How they play: Samurai Blue have returned to a more possession-based style under Nishino. Expect them to setup in either a 4-3-3 or 3-4-1-2 formation.
One to watch: Shinji Kagawa will be as important as ever to this Japan side. The 29-year-old missed the majority of the second-half of last the season through injury. He’s back now, though, and he should be relatively fresh as Japan bid to outrun their odds.
Things to consider: Cast aside those romantic visions of the exciting Japan sides of old, because the current crop isn’t nearly as good. They’re limited in their quality and will be relying on the workmanlike abilities of Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa to make a dent in the forward areas.
A kind group improves their chances, but it’s hard to see them making any sort of inroads in Russia.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing