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The World Cup is finally here! Action kicks off in Russia on Thursday, and we here at PSF are giving you all of the previews and World Cup coverage you need! It should be a fun, action packed month of soccer, and I can’t wait for it to get underway. Now, let’s talk about this odd collection of teams known as Group H, starting with the favorite.
This is expected to be the tightest group from top to bottom, and, honestly, anything could happen in it. Colombia has a strong defensive identity and two strong goal scorers up front. They grind out games and try to sneak in a goal or two off the boots of James Rodriguez and Falcao. Their issue is the lack of central midfield depth. Colombia will be a fun team, much like their 2014 quarter final squad, and should be able to make it out of this group alive, if not win it outright.
Odds to win the group: +120
Opening match: Tuesday, June 19th at 7:00 am (central time) against Japan
Poland is kind of the 2nd favorite to win the group, and no one would be surprised if they came out ahead of Colombia. Anchored by Robert Lewandowski, they will attack hard and try to score a lot of goals. Sure, they’ll also concede a lot of goals with their old defensive core, but their game plan will be to attack, attack, and attack with Lewandowski, Zielinski, and Milik. Poland is going to be one of the most fun teams to watch in the entire tournament.
Odds to win the group: +180
Opening match: Tuesday, June 19th at 11:00 am (central time) against Senegal
This is only the 2nd ever World Cup appearance for Senegal, with the other being in 2002 where they made it to the quarter finals, and this is maybe the hardest team to figure out. Senegal has a strong attacking front, a weak goalkeeper, and no one really has any idea what to do with them. They have great speed and talent, but they’ve looked better on paper than they’ve actually performed recently. There’s some worry that they won’t be able to put it all together on the pitch. They have some solid creating and goal scoring ability from the likes of Sadio Mane and Keita Balde Diao, and good depth behind them in midfielder Idrissa Gueye and defender Kalidou Koulibaly. We’ll have to wait and see if they can put it together and perform on the big stage.
Odds to win the group: +500
Opening match: Tuesday, June 19th at 11:00 am (central time) against Poland
As a person without a team in the tournament (thanks a lot, Team USA), Japan has my fandom for the World Cup (I’m part Japanese). Unfortunately, Japan hasn’t performed well lately, much like Senegal. They seem to be caught in that awkward stage of having both too many old players and too many young and inexperienced players, and that’s a big reason why they are the least likely team to win the group. Japan has a strong midfield and typically plays a fun style of soccer with lots of ball movement. They’re going to need their midfield to play nearly flawlessly if they want to move on. Led by their captain Makoto Hasebe and fellow midfielders Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, they’ll rely on pure midfield skill to try and advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2010.
Odds to win the group: +700
Opening match: Tuesday, June 19th at 7:00 am (central time) against Colombia
This group is truly tough to figure out because all four teams are really, really average. All of them have a pretty big hole that other teams can expose, but you can’t rule out any of them advancing through. If I had to pick, I’d go with the favorites in Colombia and Poland, just because of pure talent. I don’t know that Japan and Senegal have enough all around depth to advance past the group stage.
Make sure you follow me on twitter, @Tcalvin_PSF where I will be live tweeting as many of these games as possible. Also, be sure to check out the rest of our World Cup Group Primer pieces here at prosportsfandom.com!