Group H of the World Cup, often labeled the group of life, contains Poland, Colombia, Senegal, and Japan. Out of all the eight groups, this one seems to be the most open as any team could qualify for the next round. Prior to the start of the World Cup, most predicted Poland and Colombia coming out on top with Senegal and Japan being eliminated. Although some made the case for Senegal being stronger than Poland, in general most felt Japan was the weakest and that Senegal wouldn’t have enough. However, after today’s matches the view of the group has vastly shifted.
Colombia fell to Japan 1-2 and Poland lost to Senegal by the same scoreline. Colombia’s loss was largely helped by Carlos Sanchez conceding an early penalty and getting a red card in the third minute of the match. This obviously made the game more difficult than it already was for Los Cafeteros and gave Japan the foundation to win the game. Senegal meanwhile, took advantage of mistakes made by Poland to score their goals and were overall just better at getting to the ball first and winning possession back.
Currently, Japan and Senegal are tied on points and goal difference for first place while Colombia and Poland are similarly tied for last place. The next fixtures have Japan facing Senegal and Poland squaring off against Colombia. Japan and Senegal already have three points but if there is a winner of that game, it would almost guarantee their spot in the next round. Both teams will be confident after getting three points in the bag and will look to seal qualification in that match. Meanwhile, if either Poland or Colombia lose their match, the odds would really be against them to advance as they would need to win their last match, hope other results go their way, and have a superior goal difference.
Looking to the match between Japan and Senegal, I would say Senegal remain favorites to win even after Japan’s unanticipated victory. Although Japan defended well, they didn’t create too much and it must be remembered that they were defending against a team with ten men for most of the game. In addition, Colombia’s star player James Rodriguez only played from the 59th minute on due to a slight injury issue coming into the game. On the other hand, Senegal had to work more for their win even though Poland were rather poor. The stamina, pace, and power in this Senegal side was too much for Poland and although it must be said their goals were reliant on mistakes made by the opposition, I believe it will also be too much for Japan.
In regards to the other match, I would favor Colombia. I still think that Colombia would have beaten Japan with ten men, but regardless, they were a threat going forward and were able to prevent Japan from scoring in open play as they only scored from the penalty and a corner. Poland contrastingly offered little going forward and made mistakes in the back that allowed Senegal to win. Going back to James, he will surely be fit to start this game which will give Colombia more quality and although Sanchez won’t be able to play, I think Colombia will be able to cope.
In the last fixtures of the group Japan plays against Poland while Senegal faces Colombia. Considering how poor Poland was today, I would say Japan are the stronger team and they would finish on six points and qualifying for the next round. However, the other match is very difficult to predict. I would lean towards Colombia and so they would also finish on six points so it would go down to goal difference who gets top spot.
This group is the most difficult to predict in my opinion so it can go in many ways. We will see as games unfold whether these teams can continue to create intrigue and keep up Group H’s lack of clarity or if the top two teams will separate themselves from the weaker two.