Poland’s star striker, Robert Lewandowski prepares in training for their first World Cup group stage match against Senegal on June 19 (via @lewy_official/Twitter)

FIFA World Cup preview: First game begins, last preview with Group H

Colombia’s James Rodriguez poised to repeat his success from 2014 World Cup in Group H

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins today (June 14). In the final installment of our group previews and predictions, we take a look at Group H:

Poland

FIFA rank (as of June 7, 2018): 8

Best player: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Lewandowski will go down as one of the best footballers to ever come out of Poland. He has scored at least 40 goals for Bayern Munich in the past three seasons. He has been named the Polish player of the year every year since 2011.

One to watch: Kamil Glik (AS Monaco)

Glik has had two successful seasons with Monaco, winning the Ligue 1 title in 2016-17 and finishing second in 2017-18. He is a physical centre back who has outstanding aerial ability in the offensive end.

Outlook:

This is the first time since 2006 that Poland has qualified for the World Cup. Poland is considered the favourite heading into the group but any team has the ability to win. If Poland wants to go deep into the knockout stage, Lewandowski will have to have the tournament of his career.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Uruguay expected to stomp through Group A

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Portugal and Spain set to cruise through Group B

Senegal

FIFA rank: 27

Best player: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Mane finished the 2017-18 season notching 20 goals for Liverpool, which became the first team in history to have three players score more than 10 goals in a Champions League season with Mane, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Brazil’s Roberto Firmino.

One to watch: Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

Despite being born in France, Koulibaly will represent his parent’s native Senegal. He had a strong season in 2017-18 with Napoli helping them place second in the Italian Serie A. Koulibaly stands six foot five and will be a force at centre back.

Outlook:

This will be Senegal’s second World Cup appearance following a quarter-finals finish in 2002. Senegal could make for a serious contender as a majority of their starting lineup play for some of the world’s top football clubs.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: France, Denmark poised to push through Group C

Colombia

FIFA rank: 16

Best player: James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich)

James was arguably the best player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup while coming up short to Lionel Messi for the tournament’s Golden Ball award. He had a strong season at Bayern Munich in 2017-18 with a contribution of seven goals and 11 assists in 23 Bundesliga appearances.

One to watch: Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur)

Sanchez made a name for himself after being named player of the year for top Dutch club, Ajax in 2016-17. Sanchez made the move to Tottenham for a fee of 42 million British pounds. He appeared in 31 matches for the Spurs in the English Premier League in 2017-18.

Outlook:

Colombia struggled qualifying for the World Cup this year. They made it to the quarterfinals in 2014 and has all the talent to repeat. Colombia is a younger team led by 26-year-old Rodriguez and should be expected to make it through the group.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Lionel Messi set to shine on the world stage in Group D

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Whitecaps’ Kendall Waston hopes to repeat success of Costa Rica in 2014 in Group E

Japan

FIFA rank: 61

Best player: Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund)

Kagawa will be responsible for controlling the midfield. Since 2010, Kagawa has spent his career in the Bundesliga and English Premier League. He is a quality player who knows what it will take to advance.

One to watch: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City)

Okazaki is a high-end striker who has netted 50 goals for Japan in 113 appearances. In 2015 Okazaki moved to Leicester City in the English Premier League and helped them capture the title in one of the greatest underdog stories in football history.

Outlook:

While on paper, Japan is the weakest team in Group H. However, they have experience in players like Kagawa, Okazaki and Keisuke Honda.

Group Winner: Colombia. They have a great deal of up-and-coming talent especially on the back end. If Rodriguez can repeat his heroics in 2014 they will sit atop of Group H.

Group Runner-up: Poland. Lewandowski is a spectacle himself and if their defence can hold up against Senegal’s forward group, expect them to advance.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Defending World Cup champions Germany prepared to lead Group F

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup preview: Manchester’s De Bruyne to lead top-raked Belgium side through Group G


@kieranroconnor
kieran.oconnor@bpdigital.ca

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