Japan have been drawn into a competitive group where any of the four teams could realistically finish in the top two spots. The teams that make up group H are Japan, Poland, Senegal and Colombia. No doubt Japan will be the bookies early favourites to be dumped out of the World Cup at the group stages, but here we take a look at their opposition’s preparations:
Poland have so far only played two friendlies in the build up to the World Cup since they qualified, a 1-0 win over Nigeria and a 3-2 victory over South Korea with their final game before the finals due to be played on 9th June against Chile.
It’s easy to see what Poland are thinking here, they have three games at the World Cup and will play three warm up games before the big show gets underway in Russia. Their friendly opponents have mirrored their opponents in the finals, for Nigeria read Senegal, South Korea read Japan and Chile read Colombia.
I think Poland are one of the teams that are expected to get out of this group, and more likely they’re expected to battle with Colombia for top spot. Led by the excellent Robert Lewandowski who gives Poland something a lot of teams don’t have – a quality striker to depend on. Poland’s approach in playing so few games is an interesting approach that not a lot of other countries take in playing so few friendlies. For that reason it will be interesting to see if it works out for them.
Senegal have so far played three friendly matches and drew the lot, but what could be quite worrying for the Senegalese is that the opposition in the friendlies hasn’t been of the highest quality which might point that they could be a team that Japan could take points from in the finals.
A 1-1 drew with Uzbekistan was followed by a 0-0 with Bosnia, but more worryingly they only managed to drew with Luxembourg with the game also ending 0-0. They have two more friendlies lined up, but Senegal’s results aren’t exactly pointing to a team that should be feared in the finals.
They do have the excellent Sadio Mane but he is an extremely streaky player where he is either boiling hot, or freezing cold. So which Mane will show up for Senegal? Senegal have two more friendlies to go before the finals kick off, they will play Croatia on the 8th June, and oddly they will play their last friendly with South Korea on the 11th June which is one day before the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Colombia have also only played three friendlies which means more teams might only play three friendlies than I actually noticed. I am used to teams playing loads. Their three games came against France, Egypt and Australia. They drew both games against Egypt and Australia and beat France 3-2
Colombia are expected to do very well and come out of this group easily enough, but if the warm up results are anything to look into seriously they might not be as strong as people have suggested.
Colombia do have some exciting attacking players, but the question is can they do it on the big stage, Falcao didn’t cut the mustard in England, and hasn’t become as huge as he was expected to. If you asked ten people who they would prefer in their team, Falcao or Lewandowski then nine of them would opt for the Polish forward and the tenth person would be Colombian.
There isn’t much excitement in Japan about their World Cup squad but if they knuckle down and get in amongst the other teams there is nothing to suggest they can’t get out of this group. Even though the group is competitive, not many people will think Japan are able to progress and if they do it will still be a big achievement. Group H is open for anyone to take those top two spots, but Japan will still have to bust a gut because all the other Group H teams will be also, and the teams that will qualify from this group will be the ones that fight for it the most.