In this post, we'll take a closer look at Group H and try to determine which two sides are likely to prevail.
WORLD CUP 2018 GROUP H BETTING PREVIEW
PolandBialo-czerwoni (also known as The White & Reds) are back at the World Cup finals for the first time since 2006 after comfortably topping their qualifying group. They collected 25 points having dropped points in just two qualifiers (W8 D1 L1). They are currently ranked 6th in the world - just one position below their all-time high from August 2017.
With a manager who was formerly an understudy to the legendary Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker in 2007 and 2008, Adam Nawalka has impressed during his time as the Polish coach, winning 53% of his matches and leading his country to their first ever Euro quarter-final in France two years ago.
Looking for the best players at Russia 2018? Look no further than Robert Lewandowski – Poland’s captain. Any discussion of the best “number nines” currently operating in world football will invariably mention Lewandowski, the prolific Polish striker playing his trade in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.
What’s more, his tally of 51 goals makes him Poland’s leading goalscorer of all time. The 29-year-old finished the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign with 16 goals - a record for the European World Cup qualifying stages. If anyone can help Poland improve on their two third-place finishes in 1974 and 1982 respectively, Lewandowski looks the man to do it.
Poland have played two friendlies last March, suffering a 1-0 defeat to Nigeria and beating 3-2 South Korea.
SenegalSenegal secured their return by beating South Africa in a replayed group match, after the original match. The match was ordered by FIFA to be replayed because of match-fixing by the official, thus giving the Lions of Teranga another chance to roar in Russia – which that promptly took.
Managed by Aliou Cissé, a former defensive midfielder for Birmingham City and Portsmouth, Cissé was appointed head coach of Senegal in 2015. He also memorably captained his country to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2002 – so he should be able to help the players cope with the pressure.
One Senegalese player than thrives under pressure is Sadio Mané. Explosively dynamic, Mané has become one of the most exciting attackers in the Premier League since his £34 million move to Anfield in 2016. He holds the record for the fastest hat-trick in England’s top-flight when he scored three times in 176 seconds during a 6–1 win over Aston Villa for previous employers Southampton.
Currently, Senegal are just one of three African teams to ever reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup – and captain Cheikhou Kouyaté will be desperate to repeat the feat. The marauding midfielder has similar qualities to the great Patrick Vieira, but he has struggled in the Premier League since his move to West Ham in 2014. Can he shine on the international stage instead?
The African team have draw their last three warm up matches - 1:1 and 0:0 respectively against Uzbekistand and Bosnia last March, and another goalless draw against Luxembourg at the end of May.
ColombiaColombia finished fourth in South American qualifying to grab the final automatic qualification spot. They are currently ranked 13th in the world and have a golden pool of players regarded as one of the most successful Colombian squads in history. Los Cafeteros produced their best ever performance at a World Cup in Brazil in 2014 when they reached the quarter-finals, before losing 2-1 to hosts Brazil.
Led by a previous coach of the Argentinean national team, José Pékerman is renowned for his tactical management style, often selecting the players that fit his style of coaching and not being swayed by reputation. Pékerman has been head coach of Colombia since 2012 and guided them to the quarter-final stage in 2014 - the furthest Los Cafeteros ever made it in a World Cup.
Two players certain to be in Pékerman’s team are Radamel Falcao and James Rodríguez. Falcao is a born predator in front of goal, already his country’s all-time top goal-scorer and has 16 goals to his name for AS Monaco in Ligue 1 so far this season.
Rodríguez, meanwhile, shot to fame at Brazil 2014 where he finished up as the competition’s leading goal-scorer, whilst his stunning volley against Uruguay in the knockout stages was later voted as the best goal in the tournament. "El Diez" is currently out on loan at the Allianz Arena after struggling to hold down a regular starting berth at Real Madrid. Balanced, intelligent and technically gifted, Rodríguez could once again be the drive and vision behind his country, particularly if Colombia hope to at least match their 2014 performance, in what will be the nation’s sixth World Cup appearance.
The South American recently upset France by beating Les Blues 3-2 last March and drew 0-0 with Australia in the most recent International Friendly.
JapanJapan topped the Asia Group B, one point ahead of Saudi Arabia as a 2-0 win over Australia secured their place in Russia at the end of a long qualifying campaign in 2017. They will be appearing at their sixth consecutive World Cup finals after winning their qualification group. In 2014, they did not win any of their World Cup games.The “Samurai Blue” are ranked 56th in the world and are one of the most successful Asian countries in world football.
Managed by former Yugoslavia international Vahid Halilhodžicled, he led Algeria to the 2014 World Cup Finals and has also previously managed Paris Saint-Germain and the Ivory Coast, so his pedigree is there for all to see.
There is similar talented pedigree from Japan’s key man Keisuke Honda. The 31-year-old playmaker has represented AC Milan and is well-known for being a dead ball specialist. He has already represented his country on 90 occasions and publicly acknowledged that the current competition for places illustrates how strong this Japanese side is.
One man whose place won’t be under threat is long-term captain Makoto Hasebe. The evergreen veteran has accumulated 104 appearances for his country and currently plays for Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt.
With Japan’s record of competing at every World Cup tournament since 1998 assured – who knows how far they can go this year?
They have lost to Ghana 2-0 in the most recent friendly (on 30th May). Back in March, they drew 1-1 against Mali and suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Ukraine.
WORLD CUP 2018 GROUP H BEST ODDSThe following are the highest odds on the World Cup Group H Winner market. Click on the 'Bet' button to require the highest available odds on your selected team.
WORLD CUP 2018 GROUP H PREDICTIONS
It's a very levelled group in which every team has a chance to progress. We believe that Colombia and Poland will fight for the top spot, Senegal and Japan for the bottom place.
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