Russia 2018: Group H Guide

Teams:

  • Colombia
  • Japan
  • Poland
  • Senegal

Favourites to win Group: Colombia at 13/8 with Black Type
Crucial Fixture: Poland v Colombia in Kazan on June 24th

Summary

On the back of a strong performance at Brazil 2014 when they reached the quarter finals, Colombia have been installed as group favourites in this section but things may not be quite so simple this time around.

James Rodriguez was their standout player four years ago, winning the Golden Boot with six goals from just five games but his club and international form has been mixed since joining the mighty Real Madrid after that tournament.

Colombia are favourites to win the group at 13/8 with Black Type but this is the tightest section from a betting point of view and Poland are close behind at a top price of 19/10 with Unibet and 888Sport.

In third place in the group win market are Senegal at a best of 50/11 with 10Bet and Sport Pesa while Japan, who are widely expected to struggle, finish things off at 8/1 with SportingBet and Betway.

Crucial Fixtures

In a group where the betting is so tight, we’ve marked down the game between the two favourites as the crucial fixture. Colombia did well in familiar conditions four years ago but it may not be so easy in Russia, particularly as the close proximity means that Poland will be well supported in Kazan when the teams do battle on June 24.

Colombia go into this one as favourites and can be claimed at 11/8 with BetFred while a win for Poland is only marginally further back at best odds of 12/5 with MarathonBet and it’s MarathonBet who also provide the top price on the draw at 123/50.

A share of the points could be the more likely outcome and with Poland facing an easier game on the last day against Japan, qualification could be decided when Colombia take on Senegal in Samara on June 28. This section is far from clear and the Senegalese could be primed for a positive World Cup and a repeat of 2002 when they upset reigning World Champions France.

Key Players

James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez is back for Colombia but fortunes have been mixed for the midfielder since that outstanding campaign in 2014. Like many players before him, Colombia’s Vice Captain struggled to command a starting place in the Real Madrid side and he was eventually sent out on loan to Bayern Munich.

Captain Radamel Falcao is also a key figure and he is the leading scorer in this squad with 23 goals from 79 games but like Rodriguez, things have been subdued at club level and the 32 year old looks to be some way past his best.

Robert Lewandowski

For Poland, the obvious key to success in this section lies with Robert Lewandowski, a striker who looks to be a good option in the Golden Boot betting at around the 33/1 mark. The 29 year old has 55 goals from 95 international games, was prolific in qualification and if the Poles are to go deep in the tournament then Lewandowski is critical to their success.

Arkardius kMilik is a good support striker for Poland and overall this is an experienced group who have been together for some years and that could also count in their favour.

Senegal, like Poland, have one of the most highly rated strikers in World Football within their ranks as they travel to Russia with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane as their spearhead. Mane scored in the Champions League final for his club and has 14 goals in 53 internationals but that ratio is bettered by another forward in the squad, Moussa Konate who has 10 in 28.

The entire Senegal midfield plays their football in England while many of this squad are based with English or French clubs so there will be some very familiar names around Europe.

The leading scorer in the Japan squad is Shinji Okazaki who plays his club football for Leicester City having previously been with German clubs Mainz and Stuttgart. Okazaki has 50 goals in 113 full internationals and that’s a respectable record that opposing defences will have noted.

This is another experienced unit with three players having reached the 100 cap mark, including the captain Makoto Hasebe, who is currently with Eintracht Frankfurt and has played his football in Germany for the last ten years. That experience could see Japan combine as a unit and pick up important points, even if they are unlikely to escape this section.

Verdict

Sadio Mane

Group H is all about Poland as far as we are concerned and while the only European team in this section aren’t exactly underrated, they do offer some value as the second favourites to win it. Colombia will play with typical South American flair and they have some exceptional individual talent but are the odds setters listing them as favourites based on their performance in Brazil four years ago?

European conditions shouldn’t affect any team from outside of the continent as they may have done at previous world cups. It will be warm and clear enough in Russia and the surfaces, while not exactly pristine, will encourage good football but that hostile atmosphere, dominated by Polish fans, could have a bearing on the crucial fixture in this section.

But more importantly, we just feel that the Poles have the better squad and although it relies to a certain extent on Robert Lewandowski, he’s in good form and rarely lets his side down. Poland to beat Colombia in Kazan is the first tip and that should set us up nicely to take an additional profit on the Poles as group winners.

We could also include Senegal to qualify which is available at best odds of 5/4 with Royal Panda as Group H seems to be wide open and the Africans could well sneak up on the rails.

Best Bets:

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