The World Cup starts any minute now and throughout the build-up we have previewed every single group and this article will round off the series with the preview of Group H which consists of; Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan. On paper this should be a very exciting group. This is the only group to not contain a winner of the tournament, will that change this year? Highly unlikely, but here are the players from Group H that may find themselves in your Fantasy World Cup squads.
Poland are the highest ranked team in the group but will still do well to get out of it. They are 8th in the FIFA World Rankings yet the other teams in the group will put up a very good fight. Poland will certainly need their star man Robert Lewandowski on top form. The Bayern Munich forward is Poland’s talisman and scored twice in their pre-tournament friendly against Lithuania, showing he will be in good form going into the tournament. He will be an expensive forward but with the group they’re in it should be filled with excitement.
Wojciech Szczesny could be a decent shout in between the sticks. He will be cheaper than the other keepers that are ranked favourites in their respective groups. A slightly worrying thing would be he hasn’t had the game time he’s wanted at Juventus recently, but that should make him more keen to perform on the biggest stage. The former Arsenal man would free up budget nicely which will help the rest of the team as well, not just the keeper position.
23-man squad: Bartosz Bialkowski, Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny, Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszynski, Thiago Cionek, Kamil Glik, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Michal Pazdan, Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Jacek Goralski, Kamil Grosicki, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Rafal Kurzawa, Karol Linetty, Slawomir Peszko, Maciej Rybus, Piotr Zielinski, Dawid Kownacki, Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Lukasz Teodorczyk.
Senegal haven’t appeared in a World Cup since 2002 where they reached the quarter finals. Surprisingly that’s their only previous World Cup experience meaning this is just their 2nd World Cup campaign. Sadio Mane is their stand out player and will be key to their success in the tournament. He relishes the big occasions, scoring in Liverpool’s 3-1 Champions League Final defeat to Real Madrid. He has performed brilliantly all season for them and a solid World Cup campaign would seal a great season for Mane.
Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly could become a good shout for a reasonable priced defender. The 6ft 5 powerhouse plays centre back for Senegal and will definitely be a huge threat from set pieces and cause havoc in both boxes. The potential for goals from a defender is very exciting and Koulibaly certainly brings that. He hasn’t yet scored in a Senegalese shirt but could the big stage of the World Cup finally bring one?
23-man squad: Khadim N’Diaye, Abdoulaye Diallo, Alfred Gomis, Kara Mbodji, Kalidou Koulibaly, Moussa Wague, Saliou Ciss, Youssouf Sabaly, Lamine Gassama, Badou Ndiaye, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate, Cheikh N’Doye, Salif Sane, Alfred N’Diaye, Moussa Sow, Sadio Mane, Keita Balde Diao, Moussa Konate, Ismaila Sarr, Diafra Sakho, Mame Biram Diouf, M’Baye Niang.
Colombia have a vast amount of talent in their squad which lead them to a quarter final finish in Brazil four years ago, but could they equal or better that in Russia. A player who will need to be on fine form to do so is Bayern Munich midfielder James Rodriguez. The Colombian playmaker scored 6 goals in 2014 earning himself the golden boot despite playing less games than the likes of Thomas Muller and Lionel Messi. If he can rediscover the form he showed in 2014 he could be a fantastic option for a midfielder.
The other Colombian to be highlighted is their striker Radamel Falcao. Despite not hitting it off well in the Premier League, Falcao has been prolific in French’s Ligue 1 with AS Monaco. He has scored half a century of goals in his time in France in just 75 games which is an astonishing record. For Colombia, Falcao has 29 goals making him their all time top scorer. He could easily be in the hunt for the golden boot if Colombia can perform well this summer.
23-man squad: David Ospina, Camilo Vargas, Jose Cuadrado, Cristian Zapata, Davinson Sanchez, Santiago Arias, Oscar Murillo, Frank Fabra, Johan Mojica, Yerry Mina, Wílmar Barrios, Carlos Sanchez, Jefferson Lerma, Jose Izquierdo, James Rodriguez, Abel Aguilar, Mateus Uribe, Juan Quintero, Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao, Miguel Borja, Carlos Bacca, Luis Muriel.
Japan are probably the weakest team out of the four in group H, but will still strongly believe they could sneak through. It is going to be an uphill battle, however if anyone can inspire them it’s Keisuke Honda. The attacking midfielder has just turned 31, but that’s not going to stop him taking part in the World Cup. He has racked up 94 caps for Japan over a decade, scoring a fantastic 36 times in the process. He played 5 years of his career in Russia for CSKA Moscow so he should be used to conditions which may help him and improve his fantasy potential.
The player who will more than likely lead the line for Japan is Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki. He is 32 himself, so it is very likely that this will be his and Honda’s last World Cup’s meaning they’ll be up for it even more. Okazaki has played 113 games for Japan scoring 50 goals since 2008. He pulled off the impossible with Leicester a couple of years ago, could he repeat it with his country and guide Japan to their best ever finish?
23-man squad: Eiji Kawashima, Masaaki Higashiguchi, Kosuke Nakamura, Yuto Nagatomo, Tomoaki Makino, Wataru Endo, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Gotoku Sakai, Gen Shoji, Naomichi Ueda, Makoto Hasebe, Keisuke Honda, Takashi Inui, Shinji Kagawa, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Genki Haraguchi, Takashi Usami, Gaku Shibasaki, Ryota Oshima, Shinji Okazaki, Yuya Osako, Yoshinori Muto (Mainz).
This is arguably the most exciting group despite not having a big name team in the group. The lack of a big name means the race for first and second place will be more competitive and ultimately more enjoyable to watch. In my opinion, Colombia will be group winners with Rodriguez and Falcao starring for them. I think Japan will unfortunately fall short at the bottom of the table leaving Senegal and Japan to fight it out for 2nd place. Poland may just edge it mainly down to the likes of Lewandowski who is arguably world class.
Written by, Harry Clark (@HarryClark67)