The 2018 World Cup kicks off in just over three months’ time, but which side will emerge from the pack to lift the famous trophy in Russia? With 32 teams slogging it out for supremacy, Marathonbet takes a closer look at each World Cup finals group in a bid to whittle down the contenders.
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
This might not be the most enthralling group to watch as a football fan, but it presents a series of intriguing hard-to-call matches. The four teams are not a million miles away from each other in the betting markets with Colombia just pipping Poland for group favouritism heading into Russia.
European football fans would probably suggest Poland, led by talisman striker Robert Lewandowski, should come out on top but Colombia are no pushovers themselves. Ranked 13th in the world, they will look to build on their impressive quarter-final finish in 2014 and can match the likes of Poland’s goal-machine Lewandowski with Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot in 2014. In qualifying Colombia stood toe-to-toe with seasoned World Cup veterans Brazil but eventually finished fourth behind them, Uruguay and Argentina. Their key match comes against Poland on June 24 in Kazan.
Poland meanwhile make their first World Cup finals appearance since 2006 and fans are likely to flood Russia in big numbers. With a flurry of supporters behind them, it will be down to Lewandowski and co to ensure the trip is worthwhile. Former Arsenal men Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny battle it out for the goalkeeper’s jersey while Wolfsburg’s ageing but still influential midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski bows out in probably his last major tournament. The side remains largely untampered with from the one that reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, when they lost on penalties to eventual winners Portugal, but despite topping their qualifying group a heavy 4-0 defeat to runners-up Denmark could be cause for concern.
Senegal are the next side to bring a truly international vibe to this group. Their last and only appearance at a World Cup finals was in 2002, when they reached the quarter finals of Japan/Korea. They beat France and Sweden on that epic run and clocked a nearly-flawless campaign in qualifying for Russia. Liverpool’s striker Sadio Mane is Senegal’s national treasure and one of the most expensive players to ever come out of Africa. The £34million forward could mean the difference between group qualification or going home early for Senegal. The side are managed by Aliou Cisse, captain of the Senegal team that reached the quarter-finals in 2002.
Japan are the Asian contributors to Group H after wrapping up qualification with victory over Australia in August last year. This is their sixth consecutive World Cup finals appearance after first qualifying in 1998, their best achievement being reaching the round of 16 twice. Southampton’s Maya Yoshida is their captain and Mr Reliable – the seasoned centre-back providing focus and drive over their past two World Cup campaigns. Leicester City’s title-winning striker Shinji Okazaki could prove prolific in front of goal while Keisuke Honda, whose scored 36 goals in 90 appearances for his country, will ensure Japan aren’t dismissed so easily from this group.
With the four teams so closely matched, bets on ‘both teams to score’ and games to finish in draws could prove profitable for Marathonbet punters seeking to build their bank ahead of the latter stages of Russia 2018.
Group H top stat:
Poland captain Robert Lewandowski scored 16 goals in ten appearances to top the European qualifying scoring charts.
Marathonbet odds for winning the group: Colombia (29/20) – Poland (37/20) – Senegal – (9/2) – Japan (13/2)
Check the full Group H betting markets here.
The outright betting markets are here.
If you fancy a team to qualify (or not to qualify) from the group stage, then prices to Reach the Round of 16 are also found here.
When and where can I watch Group H games? And what TV channels are they on?
June 19: Colombia v Japan (1pm, Saransk, BBC)
June 19: Poland v Senegal (4pm, Moscow, ITV)
June 24: Japan v Senegal (4pm, Ekaterinburg, BBC)
June 24: Poland v Colombia (7pm, Kazan, ITV)
June 28: Japan v Poland (3pm, Volgograd, BBC)
June 28: Senegal v Colombia (3pm, Samara, BBC)
All images sourced from PA Images