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WORLD CUP 2018 - Group H Preview: Who will emerge out of Poland, Colombia, Senegal & Japan?

Up until the first ball is kicked in the Luzhniki Stadium Stadium in Moscow, Tribal will be providing you with in-depth analysis of all the 32 teams that will compete for the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Here are the previews for:

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F

Group G

Now let's continue with Group H, which features Poland, Colombia, Senegal & Japan



Poland

How did they get here?

Adam Nawalka's side was placed in Pot One for the World Cup draw after dominating their European qualification group. The Poles finished five points ahead of Denmark on the back of Robert Lewandowski's 16 goals.

Who are they?

Behind Lewandowski, Poland doesn't possess any real world-class talent, and as such, finishing as one of the two top teams is just as likely as them being knocked out at the group stage. Nawalka's 4-2-3-1 formation focuses on stuffing the midfield to win possession and, of course, getting the ball to Lewandowski. Piotr Zielinski enjoyed a breakout season with Napoli and will be important alongside Arkadiusz Milik in supporting their star striker. Monaco's Kamil Glik and Jan Bednarek of Southampton form a solid pairing at centre-back, while experienced bodies like Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak will be important for leadership. And don't forget about Poland's strong goalkeeper stocks, which includes Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny.



The young player to watch…

Piotr Zielinski. The 24-year-old, who is being tracked by Arsenal and Liverpool, could earn Napoli a lot of money with a big tournament.

How will they advance?

My guess is that if Lewandowski is at his scintillating best, Poland will have enough to advance to the knockout stages.

Group stage fixtures: Senegal (June 19 - Moscow), Colombia (June 24 - Kazan), Japan (June 28 - Volgograd)

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus)

Defenders: Jan Bednarek (Southampton), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Thiago Cionek (SPAL), Kamil Glik (AS Monaco), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warszawa), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warszawa), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (VfL Wolfsburg), Jacek Goralski (Ludogorets Razgrad), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City), Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Bromwich Albion), Rafal Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze), Karol Linetty (Sampdoria), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), Maciej Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)

Forwards: Dawid Kownacki (Sampdoria), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli), Lukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht)




Colombia

How did they get here?

Los Cafeteros finished fourth in South American qualifying to make their fifth World Cup finals and will be hoping they can repeat their 2014 quarterfinals run.

Who are they?

Pretty much the same team that stunned the crowd in Brazil. Built on a strong defence, Colombia will aim to punish the opposition on the counter in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The vast amount of responsibility will once again fall on the shoulders of James Rodriguez. In 2014, the-then 22-year-old took the tournament by storm and after his impressive season on loan at Bayern Munich, he will be looked at now as a leader for his country. Surprisingly, this is Radamel Falcao's first (and probably last) World Cup at the age of 32 and he'll be hoping to make his mark up front. Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina form a young, but extremely talented centre-back pairing, and will be helped in goals by Arsenal veteran David Ospina.



The young player to watch…

Wilmar Barrios. Dubbed the 'Colombian Kante', Boca Juniors midfielder Barrios is being tracked by Tottenham Hotspur.

How will they advance?

With a strong defence and enough players in attack that can change the game, Colombia should top this extremely difficult group.

Group stage fixtures: Japan (June 19 - Saransk), Poland (June 24 - Kazan), Senegal (June 28 - Samara)

Squad:

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Arsenal), Camilo Vargas (Deportivo Cali), Jose Fernando Cuadrado (Once Caldas)

Defenders: Cristian Zapata (Milan), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Santiago Arias (PSV), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Johan Mojica (Girona), Yerry Mina (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Wilmar Barrios (Boca Juniors), Carlos Sanchez (Espanyol), Jefferson Lerma (Levante), Jose Izquierdo (Brighton), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Abel Aguilar (Deportivo Cali), Mateus Uribe (America), Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Juventus)

Forwards: Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Miguel Borja (Palmeiras), Carlos Bacca (Villarreal), Luis Muriel (Sevilla)




Senegal

How did they get here?

Nobody will ever forget Senegal's last and only World Cup appearance when they knocked off holders France in the opening game in 2002. The Lions of Teranga topped their CAF qualification group ahead of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa.

Who are they?

Manager Alou Cisse, who captained the 2002 side, will enter his first match against Poland still undecided about the identity of his team. Just one goal from recent friendlies against Luxembourg, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Uzbekistan would be alarming if it wasn't for their plethora of talent all over the pitch. Kalidou Koulibaly is the rock at centre-back and will be supported by holding midfielders Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gueye. Liverpool star Sadio Mane is Senegal's star player in attack. But he isn't alone. Keita Balde Diao, Diafra Sakho, Mbaye Niang, Ismaila Sarr and Mame Biram Diouf will provide Cisse with plenty of options. Whether it works or not, Senegal will put on a show for the crowds in Russia.



The young player to watch…

Ismaila Sarr. The 20-year-old winger from Rennes scored five Ligue 1 goals this season and will be one to watch amongst his more established teammates.

How will they advance?

Group stage fixtures: Poland (June 19 - Moscow), Japan (June 24 - Ekaterinburg), Colombia (June 28 - Samara)

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya AC), Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes), Alfred Gomis (Torino)

Defenders: Kara Mbodji (Anderlecht), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Moussa Wague (Eupen), Saliou Ciss (Angers), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Armand Traore (Nottingham Forest), Salif Sane (Hannover 96)

Midfielders: Pape Alioune Ndiaye (Stoke), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Cheikh N'Doye (Birmingham)

Forwards: Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Diao Balde Keita (Monaco), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes), Diafra Sakho (Rennes), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke), Mbaye Niang (AC Milan).




Japan

How did they get here?

The Blue Samurai topped their Asian qualifying group, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Australia, to book their sixth consecutive World Cup finals appearance. They will be hoping to make for a poor tournament in Brazil, where they were knocked out in the group stage.

Who are they?

Akira Nishino took over from Vahid Halilhodzic, who was sacked after an unimpressive qualifying campaign, just over two months ago. A lack of stability in the dugout has leaked onto the pitch, as recent friendly losses to Ghana and Switzerland can attest. But with Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda - arguably the two most talented Japanese players of all time - in the squad, they will be a difficult opponent to negate in Group H. Maya Yoshida and Yuto Nagatomo are the experienced heads in defence alongside 35-year-old goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. However, Nishino's brief stint in charge makes it hard to gauge Japan's identity.



The young player to watch…

Naomichi Ueda. The 23-year-old was a standout player in the J-League this season and could earn a move to Europe with a good showing in Russia.

How will they advance?

Given their instability, it's difficult to see Japan finishing above the other three teams in Group H.

Group stage fixtures: Colombia (June 19 - Saransk), Senegal (June 24 - Ekaterinburg), Poland (June 28 - Volgograd)

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Metz), Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol)

Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Wataru Endo (Urawa Reds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers)

Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Genki Haraguchi (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Takashi Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale)

Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester), Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz)

Andrew Maclean
About the author

Andrew Maclean

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