Senegal players celebrate

by
Graeme Jackson

Monday Jun 11, 2018. 18:00


2018 World Cup, Group H

Dates – 19-28 June, 2018

Venues – Saransk, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Volgograd, Samara

West African side Senegal will look to revive memories of their stunning World Cup debut in 2002 when they battle for ascendancy in a wide open Group H at Russia 2018. Colombia, Poland and Japan complete a strong foursome which promises to be one of the most unpredictable at this year’s tournament.

Senegal stunned the world 16 years ago when they first beat reigning champions France in their opening game before getting as far as the quarterfinals – a feat no other African team has bettered before or since. The ‘Teranga Lions’ are led by manager Aliou Cisse – a veteran of that 2002 team – and boast an admirable array of talent, though Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is the clear superstar of their group.

Poland is not the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of Europe’s strongest football nations, but the ‘White Eagles’ come into Russia 2018 placed in the top 10 of FIFA’s world ranking and they enjoyed a great qualification campaign.

Not only did they top their group ahead of Denmark, but they also produced the co-leading scorer in the world-wide competition: Robert Lewandowski’s 16 goals were matched only by Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Sahlawi and UAE’s Ahmed Khalil. Adam Nawalka’s side are well-organised, tough-to-beat and boast plenty of experience.

The same can be said of South American heavyweights Colombia. They finished fourth in the notoriously difficult CONMEBOL qualification zone and have kept together the core of the team which reached the last eight of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Their star in that tournament was attacker James Rodriguez – the 26-year-old has not gone on to take the world by storm, as was expected after his fabulous showing four years ago and subsequent move to Real Madrid (he’s now on the books of Bayern Munich), but he remains a key cog in Jose Pekerman’s side.

Japan finished top of their AFC qualification group and come into Russia 2018 looking to improve on their group stage exit from four years ago. Managed by Akira Nishino, the ‘Samurai Blue’ have a workmanlike team dotted with the occasional standout talent, such as Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki, Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa and Eintracht Frankfurt defensive midfielder Makoto Hasebe, who also serves as the national side’s captain.

Group H fixtures (all times CAT)

19 June 2018, 14h00 – Colombia v Japan – Mordovia Arena, Saransk

19 June 2018, 17h00 – Poland v Senegal – Otkritie Arena, Moscow

24 June 2018, 17h00 – Japan v Senegal – Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg

24 June 2018, 20h00 – Poland v Colombia – Kazan Arena, Kazan

28 June 2018, 16h00 – Japan v Poland – Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

28 June 2018, 16h00 – Senegal v Colombia – Cosmos Arena, Samara

Group H head-to-heads (as per FIFA stats database, in reference to ‘home’ team)

Colombia v Japan – P3 W2 D1 L0 GF5 GA1

Poland v Senegal – No previous matches

Japan v Senegal – P3 W0 D1 L2 GF2 GA5

Poland v Colombia – P5 W2 D0 L3 GF8 GA7

Japan v Poland – P2 W2 D0 L0 GF7 GA0

Senegal v Colombia – P1 W0 D1 L0 GF2 GA2


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