A weird day in the World Cup.
England 0 vs. 1 Belgium
There was a massive amount of rotation on both sides as the two teams had already reached the Round of 16. The game was fairly even with no real talking points except the brilliant goal by Januzaj in the 51st minute. The loss on paper works in England’s favour as their pool of potential teams to face is less daunting than Belgium’s, but as we have seen with Germany nothing can be guaranteed. It should be an interesting few week ahead.
Panama 1 vs. 2 Tunisia
Tunisia go home with three points and a win to their name as they beat Panama in what was an tight game. Panama gained the lead in the 33rd minute after a Meriah own goal, and Panama managed to hold on for till half time. Tunisia responded in the second half with a goal by Youssef in the 51st minute to equalise, and Khazri gave them the lead in the 66th minute. Tunisia dominated the possession for the rest of the game and managed to see out the win.
Senegal 0 vs. 1 Colombia
Colombia reached the knockout stage thanks to a Mina goal in the 74th minute. The game had been a cagey affair till then with Colombia dominating possession but Senegal having more chances on goal. Colombia finished the group in first while Senegal who had the same goal difference and points as Japan go out of the competition due to the fact that they had more yellow cards. Truly the group of death.
Japan 0 vs. 1 Poland
While the first half was a cagey affair, Poland gained the lead and maintained it in the second half thanks to a Bednarek goal in the 59th minute. The game’s last ten minutes were probably the weirdest I have seen in football as Japan just kept the ball by passing amongst their back four. Japan could not concede a goal as it would give them a poorer goal difference than Senegal, and they did not go forward as it would open them up at the back. Japan basically played out the draw and hoped that Colombia would hold on to their lead. Thankfully for the Japanese they did and Japan go through to next round.
Group of death and who finishes first in group G?
England vs. Belgium
With both teams guaranteed a place in the round of 16 and level on points and goal difference this game can be seen as a small final. Belgium and England have both had dominant and cagey wins in the group and while Kane remains fit and ready there are doubts on whether Lukaku will feature or not. These sets of players know each other well but that will be put aside for this game as bragging rights will be key. This should be an entertaining game and the winner will finish first.
Panama vs. Tunisia
A final of sorts in this game as well due to the fact that both teams have zero points and both will want to go home with at least a win to their name. Panama and Tunisia have been poor but their support has been great and both teams having nothing to lose will go for the win.
Senegal vs. Colombia
Senegal go into this game knowing that a win would take them to the knockout stage while a draw would also be assure them a place but only if Japan lose. A loss would also see them through incase Japan also lost. Colombia need to win to keep qualification in their own hands, a draw could be enough but would come down to goal difference while a loss would send them home. Senegal have been excellent their games while Colombia have shown two different sides in their fixtures. This should be a close game and one that neither team will want to lose.
Japan vs. Poland
Japan lead the group and their situation is the same as Senegal’s, a win would guarantee them qualification and a draw would also be enough but Colombia would have to lose or draw in their game as well. If Japan lost and Colombia lost then Japan would still go through. Poland are playing for pride at this point as they have lost both their games. Japan need the three points but can wait and play on the counter Poland have nothing to lose as well and so this will be a cagey affair.
Beware of England while Group H remains wide open.
England 6 vs. 1 Panama
Panama were really poor and England lethal in a game which was finished in the first half itself. Stones opened the score in the 8th minute via a header and Kane added a second via a penalty in the 22nd minute after Panama had wrestled him down in the box. Lingard added a third in the 36th minute with a beautiful right footed shot into the top right corner. Stones scored his second and England’s fourth via another header, and another Penalty allowed Kane to add England’s fifth right before half time. Panama seemed to come out for the second half to deny anymore goals and almost accomplished the task but a shot by Loftus Cheek in the 62nd minute was deflected into the net by Kane to complete his hattrick and send England into raptures. Panama got the last laugh and Baloy scored a brilliant poachers goal in the 78th minute to give the Panama fans something to cheer about. England now lead Group G but have the same points and GD as Belgium which sets up them up for a mouthwatering final clash. Panama can hopefully build on their first goal by getting a point or more against Tunisia.
Japan 2 vs. 2 Senegal
Group H leaders went head to head and nullified each other in what was a highly entertaining game. Mané opened the scoring in the 11th minute but Inui equalised in the 34th with a brilliant shot from his right foot. Senegal and Japan cancelled each other out in attack and defence and the teams showed why they were leading Group H. Wagué put Senegal in the lead in the 71st minute even though Japan had been showing all the attacking prowess as Osako missed a clear cut chance and Inui hit the post. Honda equalised for the Japanese in the 78th minute becoming their first player to score in three successive World Cups. Japan and Senegal continued to create chance but both teams settled for the draw. Japan and Senegal both lead Group H and a win or a draw could be enough for both teams to make it to the knockout stages.
Poland 0 vs. 3 Colombia
Colombia dismantled Poland with Mina scoring the first goal via a header in the 40th minute and two great finished by Falcao and Cuadrado in the second half. Colombia and Poland both needed three points if they were to stand a chance for qualification and Colombia were up for the task. Poland now go into the last game with Japan only with their pride at stake while Japan will be fighting for a place in the next round. Colombia play Senegal in their final game and both teams can qualify with a win while a draw would be enough for Senegal but for Colombia it would come down to goal difference.
Will Groups G and H open up?
England vs. Panama
England won at the last minute against Tunisia a game in which they created several chances but failed to convert many of them. Panama were comfortably beaten by Belgium and could suffer a same fate against the English. Dele Alli is injured and all likelihood Loftus Cheek will be given a chance to impress. An England win could seal their qualification to the next round while a Panama win would throw the group wide open.
Japan vs. Senegal
The unlikely group leaders go head to head in what could be a crucial game for both teams. Japan played well against Colombia and deserved their victory while Senegal were strong against Poland and held on to claim three points. A win for either team would see that team qualify while a draw would open the group up for Poland and Colombia.
Poland vs. Colombia
Poland and Colombia both lost their opening games and both teams need to win if they are to fight for a place in the next round. Colombia on paper have a stronger squad but Poland were decent against Senegal. This should be a close game and the winner could give themselves a chance for qualification.
Surprising winner in Group H while Egypt are all but out.
Colombia 1 vs. 2 Japan
The Samurai Blue became the first Asian team to beat a South American one after the Colombians shot themselves in the foot. A red card for Sanchez in the 3rd minute allowed Kagawa to give Japan the lead in the 6th minute. Colombia were still dominant in the first half and equalised through Quintero’s clever free kick in the 39th minute. Japan came out for the second half with renewed vigour and dominated the game creating plenty of chances. Osako gave Japan the lead in the 73rd minute via a brilliant header. Colombia seemed to lose their drive and suffered a opening game defeat in what is the group of death. Japan move to the top of the table with three points.
Poland 1 vs. 2 Senegal
Senegal got of to a winning start against Poland in the second Group H game. Cionek scored an own goal in the 37th minute to give Senegal the lead. Niang doubled the lead in the 60th minute after running on to a lose pass by Krychowiak and slotting the ball into the net. Krychowiak some what redeemed himself with a brilliant header in the 86th minute which brought the deficit back to one but it was not enough. The win moves Senegal to second on level with Japan while Poland remain third on zero points.
Russia 3 vs. 1 Egypt
Russia continue to surprise pundits and neutrals as their poor form seems to have evaporated into thin air. After having defeated Saudi Arabia by five goals they put three past an Egyptian side which was nowhere near as good as they were against Uruguay. After a stalemate in the first half Russia seemed to find another gear for the second as they gained the lead in the 47th minute via a Fathy own goal. Egypt who had started Salah for this game looked to deflate and in the 59th minute Cheryshev doubled the lead for the hosts. Three minutes later Dzyuba completed the route by adding the third. A penalty in the 73rd minute allowed a far from fit Salah to get Egypt’s first goal in the tournament but it was too little to late. Egypt in all likelihood will be going home after their game against Saudi while Russia have all but secured a place in the Round of 16 when many thought they would not.
Group of death and Salah’s return?
Colombia vs. Japan
Group H is largely considered the true group of death but Colombia probably have the best squad out of the three teams. Colombia were standout in the last World Cup and while Japan always provide some attacking football the flair of the Colombians should provide them with three points. This world cup is providing unexpected results though so we can expect Japan to go into the game with nothing to lose. A close game but Colombia could edge it.
Poland vs. Senegal
Senegal might be participating in a World Cup after some time but they come with a brilliant squad with some top players in every area of the pitch. Poland have a good squad too and Lewandowski will be raring to go. Another close game but Senegal might edge Poland if they play the right way.
Russia vs. Egypt
Russia won emphatically against Saudi Arabia on the opening day but will find Egypt tougher opposition. Egypt were unlucky to lose to Uruguay after all the players put in brilliant performances. Russia won 5-0 and thereby set a record or two but this game might provide the Russians with a reality check. Salah should be back for this game and if Egypt play in similar fashion as they did against Uruguay then Egypt should be able to take the three points against the Russians.
The group of death.
Poland have participated in seven World Cups, their first came in 1938, and they finished third on two occasions the 1974 and 1982 World Cups.
Goalkeepers – Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus), Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich Town), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea)
Defenders – Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Thiago Cionek (SPAL), Jan Bednarek (Southampton), Kamil Glik (AS Monaco), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)
Midfielders – Jacek Goralski (Ludogorets Razgrad), Karol Linetty (Sampdoria), Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Brom), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City), Maciej Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow), Jakub Blaszczykowski (Wolfsburg), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli), Rafal Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze)
Forwards – Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Lukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht), David Kownacki (Sampdoria)
Manager – Adam Nawalka
Most Caps – Jakub Blaszcykowski (99)
Captain – Robert Lewandowski
Star Player – Robert Lewandowski
Poland are part of the true group of death in this competition and have tough games against all three opponents. Poland have played two friendlies, drawing the first and winning the other. They have a decent squad which is led by one of the best strikers in the world, Lewandowski. If Lewandowski can encourage his team to push on and he can add a few goals then Poland stand a chance of going through to the round of 16.
Senegal have participated in only one World Cup which took place in 2002, that competition also saw them reach the Quarter-Finals of the competition.
Goalkeepers – Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes), Khadim N’Diaye (Horoya), Alfred Gomis (SPAL),
Defenders – Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes), Kalidou Koulibably (Napoli), Kara Mbodji (Anderlecht), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Moussa Wagué (Eupen)
Midfielders – Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Salif Sané (Hannover), Cheikhou Kouyaté (West Ham), Cheikh N’Doye (Birmingham City), Alfred N’Diaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City)
Forwards – Moussa Sow (Bursaspor), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City), Sadio Mané (Liverpool), Moussa Konaté (Amiens), Diafra Sakho (Rennes), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes), M’Baye Niang (Torino), Keita Baldé (Monaco)
Manager – Aliou Cissé
Most Caps – Idrissa Gueye (61)
Captain – Cheikhou Kouyaté
Star Player – Sadio Mané
Senegal take a very youthful side to their second ever World Cup, and based on the squad they have they could cause some upsets along the way. Senegal played three friendlies, drawing one losing one and winning one. With a forward line filled with attacking talent, Senegal could make it to the round of 16 and maybe even further.
Colombia have participated in five World Cups, their first came in 1962 and they reached the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2014.
Goalkeepers – David Ospina (Arsenal), Camilo Vargas (Deportivo Cali), José Fernando Cuadrado (Once Caldas),
Defenders – Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Yerry Mina (Barcelona), Johan Mojica (Girona), Farid Diaz (Olimpia), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham)
Midfielders – Wilmar Barrios (Boca Juniors), Carlos Sanchez (Espanyol), Abel Aguilar (Deportivo Cali), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Mateus Uribe (América), Jefferson Lerma (Levante), Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate)
Forwards – Carlos Bacca (Villareal), Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Luis Muriel (Sevilla), Miguel Borja (Palmeiras), José Izquierdo (Brighton)
Manager – José Pékerman
Most Caps – David Ospina (86)
Captain – Radamel Falcao
Star Player – James Rodriguez
Colombia were spectacular in 2014 and they will be hoping to replicate those performances in Russia. Colombia have played two friendlies both nil nil draws. With a squad that includes players like Rodriguez and Falcao it would be hard to not favour the Colombians but this group is full of strong teams and so nothing is guaranteed.
Japan have participated in five World Cups, their first came in 1998 and they managed to reach the round of 16 in 2002 and 2010.
Goalkeepers – Eiji Kawashima (Metz), Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol)
Defenders – Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Wataru Endo (Urawa Red Diamonds), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Red Diamonds), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburger SV), Maya Yoshida (Southampton)
Midfielders – Keisuke Honda (Pachuca), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Genki Haraguchi (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Takashi Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Makoto Hasabe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale)
Forwards – Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz), Yuya Osako (Koln)
Manager – Akira Nishino
Most Caps – Shinji Okazaki (113)
Captain – Makoto Hasebe
Star Player – Shinji Kagawa
Japan always play football that pleases the eye and hopefully they can convert those performances into wins this time around. Japan played three friendlies in total losing two and winning one, they have quality around the pitch and if the right chemistry is found between the players then they could get out of a group which has teams at similar levels.