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FIFA World Cup 2018: Colombia look Group H pace setters in race to knockouts

Poland and Senegal will give Colombia a run for their money in Group H at the FIFA World Cup 2018 as Japan look the weakest side.

football Updated: Jun 12, 2018 12:55 IST
Rajesh Pansare
Rajesh Pansare
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
FIFA World Cup 2018,James Rodriguez,FIFA World Cup
James Rodriguez’s Colombia will be one of the teams to watch out for at the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. (AFP)

James Rodriguez and Colombia were an unknown commodity going into the 2014 World Cup but by the end of it they were among the most-talked about.

Rodriguez finished with the Golden Boot and Colombia almost beat Brazil before going down 1-2 in quarter-finals — their best finish in the event.

The match saw an entire nation weep as Neymar was ruled out of the tournament after he failed to recover from a horrendous tackle from Juan Zuniga.

Zuniga won’t be in the Colombian camp but Los Cafeteros return — with experience under their belt — as one of the teams to watch out for in Russia.

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Like Rodriguez in 2014, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski and Senegal’s Sadio Mane will be appearing for the first time at a World Cup. All three will be out there to prove a point.

Rodriguez will look to make his loan move to Bayern Munich permanent or switch to a bigger club elsewhere.

He has been revitalised since joining the Bavarians after a miserable spell at Real Madrid, which saw him warm the bench on most occasions.

His club-mate Lewandowski’s task will be to get over the disappointment of the 2016 European Championships, where he finished with just one goal in five matches, and display the killer instinct that saw him finish top-scorer in the Bundesliga for Bayern and the World Cup qualifiers.

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Mane, who has been courted by Real Madrid, will try to convince them that he is the right fit for a club of their stature and that his performances at Liverpool weren’t a fluke.

Even if the Real move doesn’t materialise, potential suitors will be queuing up to bring him on board. After all, he has enjoyed a stellar season at Anfield, despite all the limelight being hogged by Mohamed Salah.

While none of the teams in the group can be counted among the giants of the game, they are the emerging nations that have given the established countries a run for their money.

It will be a battle between Poland, Senegal and Colombia for the two spots in the round of 16. On paper, though, Colombia are the favourites to go through as they have the most balanced side.

READ | FIFA World Cup 2018: Big guns limber up in Russia as atmosphere builds

The fourth team in the group are Japan, who have created some upsets in the past but this is the weakest team they are taking to a World Cup.

GROUP H
POLAND
Qualified seven times.
Best: Third
1974, 1982
Qualifying route: Topped Gr E in UEFA qualifiers (W8 D1 L1)
ADAM NAWALKA
Head coach
(L-R) Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski
SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS: Bartosz Bialkowski, Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski
DEFENDERS: Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszynski, Thiago Cionek, Lukasz Piszczek, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Kamil Glik, Michal Pazdan
MIDFIELDERS: Jakub Blaszczykowski, Jacek Goralski, Kamil Grosicki, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Rafal Kurzawa, Karol Linetty, Slawomir Peszko, Maciej Rybus, Piotr Zielinski,
FORWARDS: Dawid Kownacki, Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Lukasz Teodorczyk
SENEGAL
Qualified once.
Best: Quarter-finals
2002
Qualifying route: Bye to Rd 2; Bt Madagascar 5-2 on aggr in Rd 2; Topped Gr D in Rd 3 of African qualifiers (W4 D2 L0)
ALIOU CISSE
Head coach
(L-R) Cheikhou Kouyate, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mane
SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS: Abdoulaye Diallo, Khadim Ndiaye, Alfred Gomis
DEFENDERS: Saliou Ciss, Kalidou Koulibaly, Kara Mbodji, Youssouf Sabaly, Lamine Gassama, Moussa Wague
MIDFIELDERS: Idrissa Gueye, Salif Sané, Cheikhou Kouyate, Cheikh Ndoye, Alfred N’diaye, Papa Alioune Ndiaye
FORWARDS: Moussa Sow, Mame Diouf, Sadio Mane, Moussa Konate, Diafra Sakho, Ismaila Sarr, Mbaye Niang, Keita Balde, Cisse Aliou
COLOMBIA
Qualified five times.
Best: Quarter-finals
2014
Qualifying route: 4th in CONMEBOL qualifiers (W7 D6 L5)
JOSE PEKERMAN
Head coach
(L-R) Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado
SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS: David Ospina, Camilo Vargas, Jose Cuadrado
DEFENDERS: Cristian Zapata, Oscar Murillo, Santiago Arias, Yerry Mina, Johan Mojica, Frank Fabra, Davinson Sanchez
MIDFIELDERS: Wilmar Barrios, Carlos Sanchez, Abel Aguilar, James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Mateus Uribe, Jefferson Lerma, Juan Quintero
FORWARDS: Carlos Bacca, Falcao, Luis Muriel, Miguel Borja, Jose Izquierdo
JAPAN
Qualified five times.
Best:
Round of 16
2002, 2010
Qualifying route: Bye to Rd 2; Topped Gr E in Rd 2 (W7 D1 L0); Topped Gr B in Rd 3 (W6 D2 L2) of AFC qualifiers
AKIRA NISHINO
Head coach
(L-R) Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Maya Yoshida
SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS: Eiji Kawashima, Masaaki Higashiguchi, Kosuke Nakamura
DEFENDERS: Naomichi Ueda, Gen Shoji, Yuto Nagatomo, Wataru Endo, Hiroki Sakai, Tomoaki Makino, Gotoku Sakai, Maya Yoshida
MIDFIELDERS: Keisuke Honda, Gaku Shibasaki, Genki Haraguchi, Shinji Kagawa, Takashi Usami, Takashi Inui, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Makoto Hasebe, Ryota Oshima
FORWARDS: Shinji Okazaki, Yoshinori Muto, Yuya Osako
Photos: AFP/Reuters/GettyImages | Graphics: HITESH MATHUR

First Published: Jun 12, 2018 12:54 IST