2018 FIFA World Cup football – Group H preview and betting odds
- Poland, Columbia, Senegal, and Japan make up the teams in Group H at the World Cup.
- While none of these sides are favourites to win the competition, it certainly makes for an interesting battle.
- All of the teams will be optimistic of progressing from the group, and whoever finishes bottom will be extremely disappointed.
- We preview the last four teams who will be playing in Russia.
Poland – Looking at this group on paper, it would be hard to predict which team was the top seed. It is in fact, Poland, who were somehow positioned sixth in the FIFA world rankings when the draw was made. Even though they last went to a World Cup in 2006, their qualifying campaign was largely trouble free.
They managed to win eight out of 10 matches, and finished five points ahead of runners-up Denmark – though it’s likely coach Adam Nawalka and his men will want to forget the 6-0 drubbing by the Danes. Poland managed to score a commendable 28 goals in those games, but that was largely due to the brilliance of Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich striker netted 16 times, which was more than any other player in qualifying.
Nawalka will be confident of at least progressing past the group stage. They were unlucky at Euro 2016 when they were knocked out on penalties at the quarter-final stage by eventual-winners Portugal. They will, however, need a plan B as teams may have worked out their long-ball tactic concerning Lewandowski. If you fancy Poland to top their group, they can be found at 9/5 with Unibet, while they are 4/7 with Betway to qualify. They are 50/1 with Boylesports to lift the prestigious trophy.
Key Player: Robert Lewandowski – Who else? With 51 goals in just 91 appearances, he could achieve the Golden Boot even if Poland don’t progress that far. Having netted 42 goals for Bayern Munich this season, Lewandowski is a man bang on form!
Senegal – After a 16 year absence from the World Cup, Senegal are back. In 2002, they set the whole globe alight with their athletic displays while beating France in the group stages, before eventually getting knocked out in the quarter-finals by Turkey.
In fact, their qualifying campaign was full of just as much drama. FIFA ruled that a referee had intentionally fixed a 2-1 defeat to South Africa, and Senegal were ordered to replay the game, which they won. The result didn’t have much reflection on the group standings, however, with Aliou Cisse’s men finishing five points clear of Burkina Faso.
Senegal will aim on beating their opponents in this year’s World Cup through their true athleticism. Not many teams will beat them for pace, and they have a good mix of experience and youth that could see them go quite far. They have quality players all over the pitch too, with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly in defence, and Cheikh Kouyate and Idrissa Gueye both in midfield. The Lions of Teranga are 17/4 with 888Sport to finish top of Group H, while they are 6/5 with Paddy Power to qualify. They can be found at 150/1 with William Hill to win the World Cup.
Key Player: Saido Mane – The forward has been hugely impressive in the last two seasons for Liverpool, and was instrumental in their progression to the Champions League final. Mane has great speed, dribbling ability, and can finish wonderfully. He was also joint-top of the assists chart in qualifying.
Columbia – If Columbia play as well as they did at the last World Cup, they’ll have a chance of beating anybody. A great start to the tournament saw them fly through the group stage, defeating Uruguay in the last-16, before eventually narrowly losing to Brazil in the quarter-finals. This year’s qualifying campaign saw them finish one point ahead of fifth-placed Peru and Chile, whist having the third best defence.
It will be this organisation at the back that will be key to their success in Russia. Both Brazil and Uruguay were held to draws by Jose Pekerman, which shows they can compete with the very best. There’s some familiar attacking faces too that should stand them in good stead. James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, and Radamel Falcao make up a pretty impressive front-line. Pekerman has been in charge since 2012 and he will know his players inside and out.
Columbia are favourites to top Group H at 7/5 with Unibet, while they are 2/5 with Betway to qualify. If you fancy the South-American team to lift the World Cup, they can be found at 33/1 with Paddy Power.
Key Player: James Rodriguez – the Bayern Munich loanee will be given freedom to roam the midfield and is capable of the spectacular. Rodriguez finished the 2014 World Cup as top-scorer with six goals.
Japan – This will be Japan’s sixth World Cup appearance and they are certainly one of Asia’s best teams. They’ve never made it past the knockout stages on the global stage, but it will be exciting to see how far they can progress this time around. They qualified for Russia after beating Australia 2-0 in the penultimate game and managed to finish top ahead of Saudi Arabia. Vahid Halilhodzic’s men also only conceded seven goals in 10 games, keeping four clean sheets in the process.
A defensive philosophy looks to be on the agenda for Japan then, but they counter attack at times through speedy, creative players such as Okazaki and Honda. Japan are least favourites to top the group at 7/1 with 888Sport, while they are 2/1 with Paddy Power to qualify. You can back them at 250/1 with William Hill to take the World Cup back to Asia.
Key Player: Shinji Kagawa – the Borussia Dortmund attacker has been in good form this season and will want to maintain that for his country. Too often he goes missing for Japan but is their best attacking threat on his day.