Preview: FIFA World Cup Group H

World Cup Group H

For most of the FIFA World Cup group stages, there are favoured teams to go through.

However, the final cluster of the competition is a lot more tightly contested than most.

Poland, Colombia, Japan and Senegal are all hoping to make it to the final stages of the competition, and each nation have realistic reasons why they should secure the top two spots of Group H.

Each team have stars that should play their best in the brightest stage, and any slip-up could result in them leaving Russia early and their rivals moving on in the competition.

POLAND

Surprising many as being considered one of the top seeds in the competition, expectations are high that Poland should at least finish the group stages at the top of the pile.

The team has capable players and the core of the squad that made the march to the European Championships in 2016 are still intact. In that competition, Poland reached the quarter-finals and lost to penalties against eventual-champions Portugal.

This time, they are looking to extend their excellent performances in international football, and two of their biggest stars should make the most of this opportunity.

Jakub Blaszczykowski is turning 32 soon and this may be his final chance to lift the team. Robert Lewandowski will be the leader of the team and turning 29, he should be at the peak of his powers and ready to carry the whole nation on his broad shoulders.

SENEGAL

A popular team among the neutrals, Senegal are back in the World Cup for the first time since 2002 and are hoping for a repeat of their previous performance – being the second African team to reach the last-eight of the competition.

Senegal had to play a replay of their battle against South Africa amidst controversy on match-fixing. They took advantage and beat their rivals which set them to secure a spot in the World Cup.

With all that behind them, they are hoping to hand in a few surprises and reach the knockout stages thanks to their gritty performances and inspired group of players.

Sadio Mane is the team’s best player, and most will rely on him to score goals. His pace and aggressiveness has earned him a lot of fans in Liverpool and showcasing his talent in Russia will easily gain him more along the way.

COLOMBIA

In the last FIFA World Cup, Colombia were impressive as they reached the quarter-finals of the competition.

Looking at their squad, they seem to have the talent to reach the same heights again.

This is the second straight FIFA World Cup appearance for the nation after a 16-year absence and they are certainly making the most of it. Their qualification was not smooth, though, as Colombia barely made it and needed a positive result in the last match to secure a place in Russia.

Of course, James Rodriguez will be the player to watch out for. His excellence in the previous World Cup resulted in big teams fighting for his services. He is currently with Bayern Munich and he may be ready for another breakout performance in the biggest stage.

JAPAN

The only Asian country in the group, Japan may lack the talent heading into the World Cup, but they can rely on other things to possibly bring them through to the next round.

They have a relatively solid team with experience that certainly goes a long way in a big competition like this.

It was on display when Japan finished atop their group in the qualifiers, outlasting teams like Saudi Arabia and Australia along the way.

They should rely on veteran stars like Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki to inspire the team against their opponents. They should certainly not be counted out.

TEAMS TO GO THROUGH

This is as close to a “group of death” as possible. This group may lack the heavyweight names like Spain and Brazil, but the four teams certainly have the opportunity for surprises in the World Cup.

Poland should end up as the top team in the group, but they may not have a smooth ride along the way.

For second place, it is likely that Senegal can do just enough to beat out Japan and Colombia. The African nation are very capable of producing world class performances.

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