WorldCupAcca Confirmed Squad:
Keeper: E. Kawashima, M. Higashiguchi, K. Nakamura
Defence: Y. Nagatomo, T. Makino, W. Endo, M. Yoshida, H. Sakai, G. Sakai, G. Shoji, N. Ueda
Midfield: M. Hasebe, K. Honda, T. Inui, S. Kagawa, H. Yamaguchi, G. Haraguchi, T. Usami, G. Shibasaki, R. Oshima
Forward: S. Okazaki, Y. Osako. Y. Muto
Probably the weakest side in Group H, despite a turbulent campaign, Japan won their group in Asian qualifying to secure their place at the finals.
Finishing ahead of Saudi Arabia by a solitary point to advance to their sixth consecutive World Cup. A 2-0 win over Australia in their penultimate game saw them book their place and secure first position, claiming one of two automatic berths.
In their five previous tournaments, the Japanese have only made it out of the group stages on 2 occasions, in 2002 and again in 2010, on both occasions they went out after tightly contested matches in the last 16.
Japan are coming into the tournament in very poor form, they have lost 4 in their last 5, including a 4-1 defeat to South Korea when they were hosting the East Asian Football Championships, they then suffered losses against Switzerland, Ghana and Ukraine – only scoring once in the process.
The only match they didn’t lose in this time was a 1-1 draw with Mali at the back end of March.
WorldCupAcca The Squad:
Japan possess an experienced group of players, several of whom will be appearing at their third World Cup.
Eiji Kawashima, Keisuke Honda, Yuto Nagatomo, Shinji Okazaki and captain Makoto Hasebe all played in 2010 and 2014 and it will be up to them to give the team the much-needed lift behind the scenes after a difficult lead-in to the finals, with the sacking of Vahid Halilhodzic which caused turbulence within the squad and left with just two months to repair the damage under new coach Akira Nishino.
Kawashima will retain his place in goal whilst a back four in front of him of Sakai, Yoshida, Makino and Nagatomo will hope to nullify the attacking threats the other sides in the group possess but I don’t expect to see them keeping any clean sheets.
Yamaguchi and captain Hasebe will be sitting in front of the back four and will try to get the ball forward quickly to Honda, Haraguchi and Kagawa in the hopes that they can create something for either Shinji Okazaki or Yuya Osako, depending on which will lead the line.
They’re always a team that are comfortable in possession and have some quality players in Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa but if these guys are struggling to get into the game then Japan don’t really have anyone else that offers that much of a threat – they will likely be finishing bottom of what should be a fiercely competitive group.
WorldCupAcca The Group:
Colombia had their best ever performance last time out in Brazil as they reached the quarter finals, easing through their group and past Uruguay before being defeated by the hosts.
They will be without first choice left back Frank Fabra unfortunately and their central midfield isn’t the best but they possess some very good defenders in Davison Sanchez and Yerry Mina at the back and the attacking threat of Cuadrado, Falcao and James Rodriguez should be enough to see them through the group.
Poland are the obvious threats, they comfortably finished top of the relatively comfortable UEFA Group E, winning eight out of 10 fixtures against Denmark, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan, even though their 4-0 defeat in Copenhagen was an obvious disappointment.
They scored 28 goals, 16 of them coming from Robert Lewandowski. The captain netted hat tricks in key home wins against Romania and Denmark, and their qualification was never really in doubt.
The Poles are much more than just one striker, though. Manager Adam Nawalka is building on a successful Euro 2016, where the Poles reached the quarterfinals and exited only on penalties.
They have a solid backbone of experienced leaders, including centre-back Kamil Glik, defender Lukasz Piszczek and midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, who are complemented by rising young stars like Piotr Zielinski and Karol Linetty.
Senegal are also serious contenders to get out of this group, they qualified unbeaten from CAF’s Group D after taking 14 points from their six matches, winning four and scoring 10 goals.
They’ve a wealth of talented forward options, powerful midfielders and commanding central defensive options in Kalidou Koulibaly and Kara Mbodji.
The key area of strength, is in midfield, where Idrissa Gueye performs a key duty, snuffing out opposition attacks and protecting his defence.
He has not enjoyed his best season at Everton, but his defensive numbers have rivalled those of N’Golo Kante in recent years, and he’s the centrepiece of a strong unit that should contain the likes of Kouyate, Alfred N’Diaye and Cheikh N’Doye.
Add to this the pace and quality of the likes of Sadio Mane, Moussa Sow, Ismaila Sarr, Diafra Sakho, M’Baye Niang and Keita Balde among others in attack and the The Lions of Teranga can cause problems for a lot of teams.
WorldCupAcca Betting Tips:
World Cup Group H Fixtures / Results
|Mordovia Arena, Saransk – June 19, 2018 3:00 pm|
|Spartak Stadium, Spartak Stadium – June 19, 2018 6:00 pm|
|Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg – June 24, 2018 8:00 pm|
|Kazan Arena, Kazan – June 24, 2018 9:00 pm|
|Volgograd Stadium, Volgograd – June 28, 2018 5:00 pm|
|Cosmos Arena, Samara – June 28, 2018 6:00 pm|
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