Perhaps the tightest of the groups with all squads so evenly matched in quality, every game in Group H is a much watch and could go either way.

Poland

Road to Russia
Poland flew through their group, topping it with just one loss against Denmark, one draw with Kazakhstan and eight commanding victories. Robert Lewandowski netted 16 goals which equaled the most goals scored in qualifying and made up almost 60% of the nation’s goals.

Poland however are a bit like England; they tend to be great in qualifying but can’t bring the same intensity to the main event.

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Coach
Adam Nawałka has been head coach since 2013 and his long association leading his nation has lead to stability in personnel and performance.

Nawałka has experimented with a 3-4-3 in recent times but may revert to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 in Russia. It shows that Nawałka has faith in his side’s ability to adapt and that flexibility may prove key against different oppositions they come up against.

Key Players
Lewandowski is the obvious world class player in the side but Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik is a more than reliable striker who is usually deployed off Lewandowski to good effect. Grzegorz Krychowiak is not only the hardest name to spell ever but is an astute anchor in the side’s midfield. His club form has not gone how he would’ve hoped after a recent West Bromwich Albion loan however the 28-year-old always turns up for his national team.

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The right hand side of Poland’s team is highly experienced with Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek churning out pace, power and direct running from deep with the former cutting inside to look for goal and the latter whipping in balls from out wide. Look out for Napoli youngster Piotr Zieliński as well to add some creativity and guile in attack.

Verdict
Probably out of Poland and Senegal for the other top two spot behind Colombia and the biggest game of the group may be the opening match when the two sides meet. Poland probably don’t have the quality to go very far in the knockout stage but with a player like Lewandowski up front anything is possible.

Senegal

Road to Russia
Senegal topped their CAF qualifying group with four wins, two draws and no losses. The west-African side had no stand out scorers with goals spread between a number of players during qualification.

Senegal were not really challenged on their road to Russia after matching up against South Africa, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde Islands but have more recently faced Croatia and South Korea, losing the first and winning the second of these friendlies.

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Coach
Former PSG, Birmingham City and Portsmouth midfielder Aliou Cissé will take his nation to their first World Cup since Korea/Japan 2002 when the nation made it all the way to the Quarter-Finals captained by none other than Cissé himself.

The 42-year-old sets Senegal up with a focus on defensive solidity thanks in large part to a very strong defensive midfield partnership of English Premier League duo Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gana Gueye sat in front of a defense featuring Napoli’s outstanding centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly.

Key Players
With such a focus on a strong defense Senegal will look to to get the ball forward quickly and directly to their attackers including Liverpool’s prodigious talent Sadio Mané and Monaco’s enterprising young winger Keita Baldé Diao.

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Keep an eye out for Rennes youngster Ismaïla Sarr who, with a decent showing in Russia may find himself in a big summer move to an elite European side.

Verdict
Senegal have quality all over the pitch with some stand out players. Defensive solidity will be vital but a lot of pressure will be on Mané and Keita Baldé to perform up front which may run them into the ground. Don’t be surprised however to see them out of the group and on a similar run to 2002.

Japan

Road to Russia
Qualifying didn’t prove much trouble for Japan who finished on top of their third round group containing the Socceroos and fellow World Cup Qualifiers Saudi Arabia. Their two losses came on the opening and final day of qualifying, the latter against Saudi Arabia when they had already assured top spot in the group.

The Blue Samurai’s main goal threats come through former AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa who netted a combined 13 goals in qualifying.

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Coach
Akira Nishino is the new man in charge after taking over from the controversial Vahid Halilhodžić in April. He’s previously had stints at the helm of Nagoya Grampus and Gamba Osaka however this will be Nishino’s biggest role yet.

Nishino may struggle most to find ways for his side to get the ball in the net on the big stage with Shinji Okazaki working better with a strike partner.

Key Players
Captain Makoto Hasebe is a vital pivot of the team and can be deployed at centre back or defensive midfielder with the rest of the side looking to him for inspiration.

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Kagawa wasn’t always favoured by the previous coach but his creativity along with Honda’s free kick ability will see them tasked with finding the back of the net for this side.

Verdict
Not many fancy Japan to make it out of this evenly matched group and perhaps for good reason. A lot of reliance is on the midfield for goals but defensively the Blue Samurai are leaky and that may ultimately be their downfall.


Colombia

Road to Russia
Colombia finished fourth in the insanely difficult CONMEBOL qualification, behind Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina with seven wins, six draws and five losses. James Rodriguez, who rose to stardom for his performances in the 2014 World Cup led the scoring charts for Los Cafeteros with six goals in qualifying.

The South American side found it relatively easy going against some of the weaker sides but struggled to match it with the big boys who ultimately finished above them.

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Coach
Head coach José Pékerman has been at the helm since the 2012 World Cup and has helped stabilise the ship after a rocky run of coaches. Péckerman usually sets his Colombia side out in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Rodriguez playing in the number 10 role behind the country’s top scorer and captain Radamel Falcao.

In a tight group Péckerman’s experience from the last World Cup will prove invaluable meaning another decent run into the knockout phase may be on the cards.

Key Players
The aforementioned Falcao and Rodriguez are undoubtedly the spearhead and the go to players for inspiration in attack. Lookout for the workrate and direct running of Juan Cuadrado who will help press the ball when Colombia are out of possession and burst forward when they win it back.

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It’s not just attacking talent for Colombia however. Davinson Sanchez is coming off the back of a stellar first season at Tottenham Hotspur and will provide solidity and a decent out-ball from the back.

Verdict
The best of an evenly matched bunch in Group H and should get out. There’s no reason once they’re in the knockout phase that they can’t make it to the Quarter Finals or even Semi Finals. A talented outfit and definite dark horse.

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Living and studying in Newcastle. Pretty obsessed with football. Newcastle Jets and Chelsea FC fan