2018 World Cup Guide, Groups E-H

If you missed my Groups A-D preview, you can find it HERE.

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The greatest sporting event in the history of the human race is upon us, and I couldn’t be more excited. It is somewhat bittersweet as this will be the first time in my life that the US will not be in the tournament which obviously sucks, but I’ve convinced myself that we were never invited anyway so it doesn’t even matter that we’re not in it. (It’s kind of worked).

But I’m still here to pick every match this tournament as well as provide you with this guide which will include a preview for each group, a preview for each team, best bets in each group and best bets for who’s gonna win it all. It will be split into two parts, Groups A-D and Groups E-H. Let’s do the damn thing!

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18 carats of the sexiest gold known to man

How The Tournament Works
Each continent went through rigorous qualifying for almost two years until 32 teams were left from every continent in the world. Those 32 teams are broken up into 8 groups where each team plays every other team in their group once (3 matches). The team with the most points and second most points advance to the round of 16, with the tiebreaker being goal differential. From there on, it’s a single elimination tournament all the way to the World Cup Final where over 1.5 billion people will watch a new champion be crowned on July 15th.

Group E

Brazil (+475 to win, -375 to win group)

Overview: As the outright favorites, this Brazil team has a lot of eyes on them this summer. After their historical 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinal on home soil in 2014, Brazil is also looking to repair the pieces of their shattered dreams four years ago. They have the most creative talent in the tournament from top to bottom and have arguably the third best player in the world on their team, Neymar. They finished Conmebol qualifying with the most points, the most goals scored, the least goals conceded and a 12-5-1 record in the hardest qualifying setup in the world. Get used to these names in their starting XI, as many may be household names for the next month around the world. Here is what that starting XI should look like; Ederson (Man City), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Thiago Silva (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Danilo (Man City), Fernandinho (Man City), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Coutinho (FC Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea), Neymar (PSG), Gabriel Jesus (Man City). 

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Brazilian captain Cafu holding the World Cup Trophy in Japan after the 2002 World Cup Final

Strengths: They’re Brazil. They are the most decorated country in the soccersphere and they come ready for these tournaments every four years. They’ve made it to at least the Quarterfinal in each of the last 6 World Cups and they’ve won the title 5 times. Not only are they arguably the most talented team in the tournament, but they always come ready to play and this may be their most talented and in-form team since their 2002 winning side. They will be playing with no fear this year and as I said earlier, are the outright favorites in this tournament.

Weaknesses: The only thing I could really think of is not having an experienced goalkeeper. It may be a theme in my blogs but the goalie position is the only position that can lose you a match or knock you out of the group. Alisson is 25 and Ederson is 24 and although they both had great seasons, being a young rookie goalie in the World Cup can be a dangerous scenario to be in.

Key Player: Forward, Neymar. How big is Neymar to Brazil? Well right after he broke his back in the Quarterfinal in 2014, their team collapsed in that embarrassing 7-1 loss to the champions-in-waiting Germany. Leading up to this tournament he led them through qualifying with 6 goals and 8 assists and the 26-year old megastar will most likely produce again during this World Cup. If he wants to become the next Pele, a.k.a. a living God in his country, a World Cup title will be crucial to his résumé.

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Neymar

WC History: 5 championships (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002), have qualified for every World Cup ever, 2 runner-up finishes, 2 third place finishes.

Fun Fact: Banks close 3 hours prior to every World Cup match. The country quite literally stops in its tracks.

Good Bet: Brazil to win the World Cup (+475). Almost no matter what, it’s always good to bet on this Brazil team to win the title. You know how in March Madness there are some teams that always do well in the tourney or how the Pats will always win the AFC East? Brazil will almost always make a run in the World Cup.

Costa Rica (+50000 to win, +25000 to win group)

Overview: The darlings of 2014 where they shockingly progressed to the Quarterfinal come back into the World’s tournament wiiiittthhhhh….. absolutely no chance to do anything. The sad part about how bad this team matches up with the rest of the field is that they qualified over the United States and we could’ve gone through this group to the Round of 16. Hot take? Possibly, but they’re +400 just to get out of the group which is the 5th worst odds in the tournament and there are much better groups than this one.

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Costa Rica after beating Greece in a penalty shootout in the 2014 World Cup

Strengths: Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is one of the best goalies in the world and if we can see a Tim Howard/Guillermo Ochoa type performance from him, there may be an upset in the cards. He’s won back-to-back Champions Leagues for Real Madrid and he’s this entire team. especially at the back.

Weaknesses: Defense and midfield. Other than knowing a few players from the MLS, there are almost no well-known players in both the midfield and defense.

Key Player: Goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. He’s one of the top goalies in the world and will need to pitch a few shutouts if they want a shot.

WC history: 5 appearances, 1 Quarterfinal appearance.

Fun Fact: Costa Rica has no standing army.  It was constitutionally abolished in 1949.

Serbia (+20000 to win, +700 to win the group)

Overview: Serbia is an odd squad, as there are a few solid players but the rest of the team is pretty average. You’ve got names like Kolarov, Tadic, Milivojevic, Matic, Savic and Mitrovic who play in top leagues and on top teams in the world but everyone else’s background isn’t as strong. The second spot in this group is up to them or Switzerland and it may come down their match in matchday 2 for Group E because Serbia play Brazil after that and they will surely lose points there. It will all come down to their strengths and weaknesses below.

Strengths: Their stars. Matc and Savic holding down the midfield with Kolarov and Milivojevic on defense and offense respectively will have to shoulder the load for this team. If they can inspire the rest of the squad they have a good shot at advancing.

Weaknesses: Without a solid goalkeeper and having the glaring holes outside of their best players could be their undoing in this tournament. As I said in my first preview, sometimes you’re only as good as your weakest link in the World Cup.

Key Player: Captain and Defender, Aleksandar Kolarov. With years of Premier League experience, he will lead Serbia and brings a level of experience that a team with the 5th youngest squad age will need.

WC History (Post Yugoslavia, 2006-): 3 appearances, have never made it out of the group.

Fun Fact: The only Serbian word that is accepted and used across the world is “vampire”.

Switzerland (+10000 to win, +650 to win group)

Overview: Similar to Serbia, the Swiss have a couple players who play on some prominent teams, but the rest of the squad is pretty forgettable. They’ve played really well in their tune up matches for this tournament since March beating Greece, Panama, Japan and drawing to Spain. They play better than many tend to expect and have made the Round of 16 3 of their last 4 World Cups. It will come down to that match against Serbia as I said above.

Strengths: Their defense is stingy, and it’s the only thing they have going for them top to bottom. It’s not that there are any holes everywhere else, but they have a lot of experience in the back including their goalie Roman Burki who started almost every game for Borussia Dortmund this season.

Weaknesses: The only serious issue is where the goals will come from. Only two of their strikers played in the top 5 leagues and they combined for 7 goals in 34 appearances.

Key Players: Attacking Midfielder, Xherdan Shaqiri and Defender Stephan Lichtsteiner. Both are as equally important to this squad; Shaqiri the creator and often goalscorer while Lichtsteiner is the captain and the leader of that defense.

WC History: 10 appearances, 3 Quarterfinal appearances

Fun Fact: Switzerland is one of the world’s great exporters of chocolate. Eighteen Swiss chocolate companies made 172,376 tons of chocolate in 2012.

Good Bet: Switzerland to advance to the Round of 16 (+120). It’s either them or Serbia and I like the Swiss to beat them and come in second.

Group Prediction: 1st. Brazil, 2nd. Switzerland, 3rd. Serbia, 4th. Costa Rica.

GROUP F

Germany (+475 to win, -300 to win group)

Overview: We start Group F with the reigning champions. What’s changed since 4 years ago? Not too much. The only difference is that the old guard of German players like Lahm, Podolski, Klose and Schweinsteiger have retired from international play and they have added young stars like Kimmich and Timo Werner. They come in with the same strategy; to play clinical football with limited mistakes and to completely dominate the midfield. They are the second best favorites in the tournament but nobody has repeated since Brazil in ’58/’62, putting a target on their back and pressure from their own fans to not only repeat but to tie Brazil with 5 total trophies. The bad news? The last two champions failed to get out of the group (Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014) due to that same pressure. I see them getting out and winning this group but it may be tough for this squad to repeat this summer.

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Bastian Schweinsteiger holding the World Cup trophy in 2014

Strengths: Literally everything. They have the best goalie over the last 6 years, the best defensive depth in the tournament including 4 Bayern players, the midfield has names like Ozil, Kroos, Muller, Gungodan and they finally have their striker in young star Timo Werner. They play as a unit very well and their shape is almost always impeccable, one of the qualities of a championship side.

Weaknesses: The curse of the returning champion. I know, I know it’s very very unlikely they will crash out of the group like Spain and Italy who had aging stars, but this team has a big target on its back. The championship hangover is real in all sports, but means the most when you only can win something once every four years.

Key Player: Listen, this roster could be the most stacked in the field so I’m going to get creative with this one. The last two winners both won without a true out-and-out striker in Spain and Germany, but this World Cup will be different. The evolution of the striker has changed and the need for a versatile striker in the World Cup will be huge this summer. There are a lot of great strikers in this tournament and if 22-year old Timo Werner can break out and provide this team goals, their chances look good to make a run to the semifinal-final. Relying on attacking midfielders and wingers to provide goals may not be a sustainable strategy in this World Cup.

WC History: 4 time champion, 4 second place finishes and 3 third place finishes.

FunFact: Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft is the longest word to be published. It is 79 letters long.

Sweden (+20000 to win, +800 to win group)

Overview: The Zlatan-less Sweden come into this tournament a little disrespected by the odds makers. They got out of a qualifying group that consisted of France and Holland with the best goal differential and had to beat Italy in the playoff round. This team is really hard to break down defensively as shown when they went to Italy and held them goalless. They’re my sleeper pick to come out of this group as they’re eager to show the world that they’re more than Zlatan’s national team.

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Sweden after scoring the goal vs Italy that would put them through to the World Cup

Strengths: This team is tough to score on. As I said earlier, this team had the best goal differential in qualifying and even beat France at home 2-1.

Weaknesses: They must win or take points against Germany and/or Mexico. If they lose both of those matches or even draw both, it essentially dooms them from advancing out of the group.

Key Player: Striker, Emil Forsberg. The 26-year old striker from RB Leipzig will lead the line for Sweden and he may be their main, or only, source of goals.

WC History: 1 second place finish (1958), 2 third place finishes, first appearance since 2006.

Fun Fact: The Swedish three-point seatbelt is claimed to have saved 1 million lives. It was launched by Volvo in 1959 and is found in 1 billion vehicles worldwide.

Good Bet: Sweden to advance out of the group (+175). They are stingy and can nab goals against great teams, setting themselves up for a sneaky advance in Group F.

Mexico (+10000 to win, +550 to win group)

Overview: Listen, I’m going to get this out now. There is literally no reason to root for Mexico if you are a US Men’s National Team fan. If you aren’t a fan of soccer or the USMNT then rooting for Mexico is totally fine and even recommended, but there is no excuse for cheering on your biggest rival in the world’s game on the world’s biggest stage. Okay, now that I have that out of the way let’s get into El Tri. Mexico is the best team in North America and they tend to compete well against anyone in the world, but where they fall short is teams with contrasting styles. Germany and Sweden are two of those teams due to their defensive nature and great shape, and if they cant score on either of them then they may find themselves in some serious trouble. They have several young stars on offense but where they may also fall short this summer is their aging defense. They are also looking to shake off a curse that includes 6 straight Round of 16 exits, dating back to 1994.

Strengths: Their attack is potent and has experience both in years and in good competition around the world. Carlos Vela, Giovanni Dos Santos, Jesus Corona, Oribe Peralta and of course Chicharito is a lot of firepower to have up top and their exciting style going forward can cause trouble if they can get out of the group.

Weaknesses: Their defense is not strong at all and it may force them to rely on their offense too much, making their team too top heavy. They have veteran leadership and some players play in top leagues around the world, but they are very short on appearances at those clubs and may find themselves out of form as well.

Key Player: Striker Javier Hernandez a.k.a. Chicharito. He’s their superstar, national hero and he plays in the best league in the world. He needs to show up on the big stage if Mexico want to make an impact in the World Cup.

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Chicharito (right) at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

WC History: 2 quarterfinal appearances, 6 straight knockouts in the Round of 16.

Fun Fact: The border between Mexico and the United States is the second largest border in the world (only the U.S.-Canadian border is longer).

South Korea (+50000 to win, +2200 to win group)

Overview: South Korea comes into this tournament massive underdogs, and drawing a group with Germany, Mexico and Sweden doesn’t help. They barely got out of their group in qualifying that consisted of Iran, Syria, Uzbekistan, China and Qatar and have been playing very poorly in the tuneup games before the World Cup. If you’re not getting my point here, they don’t have much of a shot.

Strengths: Almost all of these players play locally in Asia, except one. Heung-Min Son is a regular for Premier League and Champions League club Tottenham, appearing in 37 marches. He scored 12 goals and assisted 6 more in a very impressive season and if he can score a few goals, it could go a long way in shaking up this group.

Weaknesses: Presumably everyone else. I don’t know much about this team, but not knowing a single player outside of Son is usually a sign that everyone else isn’t that good.

Key Player: Striker, Heung-Min Son. If they can get the ball through the backline of the opposition, expect Son to put it away. South Korea could be the reason Mexico or Sweden don’t make it out of the group if they can steal points from them and Son could have a direct impact on that.

WC History: 10 appearances, 1 fourth place finish (2002 on home soil).

Fun Fact: In South Korea, babies are considered 1 year old at the time of birth.

Group Prediction: 1st. Germany, 2nd. Sweden, 3. Mexico, 4. South Korea.


Group G

Belgium (+1100 to win, -120 to win group)

Overview: This Belgium squad is so sneaky good that those odds to win the tournament and the group are almost a steal. From top to bottom there are no holes in this team and although they may not have the skill of Spain or the tactical/clinical genius of Germany, they have a little bit of everything. Speed on the wings, a creative midfield, a star goalie and attacking options all highlight the Belgian squad and it may just propel them deep in the tournament. They’re not short of stars either but since they’ve only made it to the Quarterfinals once since their 4th place finish in 86, there are doubters. But Every key player on this team is in their prime and this could be their coming out party on the world’s stage for this ‘Golden Generation’.

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Kevin De Bruyne after scoring the game winner against the United States in the Round of 16 in 2014

Strengths: This team is complete from top to bottom with quality. Premier League stars Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and striker Romelu Lukaku all were top players for 3 of the best clubs in Engalnd. They will carry this team and all have played extremely well over the last 2 years in qualifying as well as the recent tune up friendlies.

Weaknesses: Can they stay healthy? Their captain Vincent Kompany has had serious injuries over the last 5 years and they need him to stay healthy this World Cup. If Vertonghen (who has also had recent injury struggles) and Kompany click with goalie Thibaut Courtois in the back, they may shut out everyone in the group. It’s also key to note that Hazard limped off their friendly against Costa Rica on Monday as well, leaving more questions as if this team can stay healthy.

Key Players: Winger, Eden Hazard and Central Midfielder, Kevin De Bruyne. Hazard controls the wings, can cut inside and can finish just as good as anyone else on the team. Expect him to produce this World Cup along with Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne who had 16 assists for Manchester City in their record-breaking season. They’ll be connecting in every match and that connection could get them to a World Cup Semifinal (they’d have to get through Germany first though).

WC History: 1 fourth place finish, 1 quarterfinal appearance.

Fun Fact: The highest point in Belgium is lower than the world’s tallest building.

Good Bet: Belgium to win the group (-120). Yes, England are a lot better than usual this year but Belgium is in another class and they should take this group. I won’t be taking it personally because it may hinge on that match against England, but they also have value to win the entire tournament at (+1100) if you’re looking to have action on the Belgians. They’re a solid ‘darkhorse’ team if you’re looking to say ‘I called it’ in mid July.

Panama (+100000 to win, +6600 to win group)

Overview: Up there with Saudi Arabia and fellow group mates Tunisia, first-timers Panama is one of those teams that will look like they don’t belong at this summer’s World Cup. This is not only sad for Concacaf as its a bad look for our qualifying region, but because they qualified INSTEAD of the United States. It will be hard to swallow watching this team get destroyed by Belgium and England but it’s something we will have to go through as part of the grief process as Americans. They haven’t won a single tuneup match leading up to this World Cup and they only have one player who may stand out this summer in Roman Torres. The rest of the squad is far from impressive and they’ll be lucky if they leave this group with more than a point. Harsh, I know.

Strengths: Central American teams are very tough to break down due to their physical nature and sheer will. Since it is their first qualification as well, their ignorance could be bliss as well. They will be tough to beat and will likely sit back and defend in every match, which could cause teams like England trouble.

Weaknesses: Most of this squad can be considered a weakness. They have also come out of an easy qualification region (sigh, USMNT) and don’t have much experience against good competition.

Key Player: Defender, Roman Torres. The 6 foot 2, 220 pound Panamanian sent them into this World Cup (and the United States out of it) with his game winning goal in the last match of qualifying will lead the back line for Los Canaleros.

WC History: First ever qualification.

Fun Fact: Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.

England (+1600 to win, +120 to win group)

Overview: England are always the most complicated nation at the World Cup. Their domestic league, the Premier League, is the best in the world and includes some of the best players in the world. But they have only won 1 World Cup and The Three Lions haven’t made it past the Quarterfinals since 1990. Every year their own people joke about how they won’t make it far, and the tabloids create rumors and stir the pot at every World Cup on their own players. Usually, it’s a toxic environment and the pressure tends to be too much for England but this year is different. Although most other people are down on England this year, I haven’t been this confident in them in years. Their lineup in my opinion is the best they’ve had in the 21st Century, the players have gelled more than they have in previous World Cups, they finally have their striker and all is quiet at the England camp this time around (which is a good thing).

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God damn they look good

Strengths: England’s attack is not only the best they’ve had in years but it also has a different dynamic and it all starts with Harry Kane up top. The 24-year old Tottenham star, who was once called a one hit wonder, has had 4 straight seasons scoring over 20 goals including 30 this season and 29 last season. His striking partner (or backup depending on formation) is Jamie Vardy who famously led Leicester City to their miracle title run on 2015 with 24 goals. Vardy can get in behind the back line with darting runs and Kane provides skill and can finish from anywhere inside the box as well as with his head. Behind them and on the wings is Raheem Sterling who tallied 18 goals and 11 assists for Manchester City this year in a breakout campaign. With a supporting cast including Rashford, Alli and Lingard they aren’t afraid to go forward and unlike England teams of the past, they are all exciting to watch.

Weaknesses: It’s not that their keepers aren’t good, it’s that none of the three have ever appeared in a World Cup, they’re all between 24 and 26 years old and they didn’t know who their number 1 was until shortly before the tournament. They’re quality keepers but it could also be a looming disaster considering their goalie issues in the 21st century.

Key Player: Striker, Harry Kane. If he can provide the goals especially in key moments like he tends to do, this England team has a very high ceiling. Has England finally found their World Cup striker at only 24 years of age?

WC History: 1 championship (1966), 6 straight appearances.

NEUTRAL FAN ALERT: Although they’re usually known for their boring play, this England team will actually be exciting to watch this summer. Plus, if you lightly follow the sport or the Premier League there are stars that you may recognize as well! This is a decent chance to get to know star players in the best league in the world.

Fun Fact: Big Ben is not actually the name of the clock, it is the name of the bell which is inside the clock.

Good Bet: Again, I’m not saying it will happen but if they can win this group and get a decent draw in the R16/Quarterfinal there is value in England winning the World Cup at (+1600). I know it sounds like I’ve lost my mind cause ‘England will never win!’, but it’s the World Cup and narratives are both created and broken in this magical month.

Tunisia (+100000 to win, +2200 to win group)

Overview: There isn’t a single player on this team that I know and they barely escaped African qualifying in a group of Congo, Libya, and Guinea. They are stuck in a group with two of the world’s best teams and their only shot for a point will be against Panama realistically. But at least they’re happy to be here!

Strengths: From what I’ve heard they’re decently stingy in the middle of the park especially in the midfield.

Weaknesses: None of these players except one get time in a respectable league and they could all be considered a weakness for this team.

Key Player: Midfielder, Ellyes Skhiri. He played in 35 matches this season for Montpellier who finished mid-table in France this season and will hold down the central midfield for the Tunisians this summer.

WC History: 5 appearances, never made it out of the group.

Fun Fact: The country has only ever had two presidents.

Group Prediction: 1st. Belgium, 2nd. England, 3. Tunisia, 4. Panama.

Group H

Colombia (+4500 to win, +130 to win group)

Overview: Colombia actually come into this World Cup as the only group favorite to have positive odds at (+130). They are led by captain and Bayern Munich Midfielder James Rodriguez (pronounced Ha-mes) who won the golden boot for most goals in Colombia’s Quarterfinal run in 2014. 2014 was his coming out party and the world fell in love with him that summer, but this team is more than James. Two other stars also join James on Colombia’s quest to World Cup glory; Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao. Both are coming off of stellar seasons for Juventus and Monaco respectively, and will help Colombia’s attack in a group that is somewhat up for grabs.

Strengths: Their attack of James, Cuadrado and Falcao is where this team will be relying on their production. Luckily, Colombia shouldn’t have any trouble finding goals from these three in a group where many of the games are slated for a shootout.

Weaknesses: Colombia’s defense isn’t something to write home about. Their two or three best defenders weren’t in good form this season and as I said above, this group will not be short of goals. They will need to put the clamps on Poland, Senegal and Japan if they want to win the group.

Key Player: Midfielder, James Rodriguez. In the 2014 World Cup James scored 6 goals in only 5 matches and won the Golden Boot, becoming the first Colombian to ever do so. He had another great season with Bayern Munich scoring 7 goals and adding 11 assists and I expect him to have a great tournament this summer.

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Colombia dancing after a James Rodriguez goal in the 2014 World Cup

WC History: 6 appearances, 1 Quarterfinal appearance.

Fun Fact: Local government periodically imposes a ‘Dry Law’ during major events such as World Cup matches and elections, prohibiting alcohol consumption in order to stem public violence.

Good Bet: Colombia (+130) to win the group. They are the best and most experienced team in this group and I see them coming out on top.

Japan (+30000 to win, +900 to win group)

Overview: Japan comes into the World Cup with a veteran roster, but it might almost be too old. They’re fit with a few national stars and names you may have heard like Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki but outside of that nucleus much is very unknown. They have the worst odds to win the group and without a solid defense or depth especially up top, it may be an uphill battle for the Japanese.

Strengths: Leadership will be key for the Japanese. If their leaders listed above can push the rest of the squad forward, they have a good shot at pulling off an upset.

Weaknesses: Coaching has been a bit of an issue for this Japanese side. They sacked their coach after qualifying and their new coach Akira Nishino will only have 3 matches in charge before the tournament starts. Japanese fans better hope the roster has clicked with the new man in charge or they may be in deep trouble and have to rely more on their leaders more than other underdogs in the competition.

Key Player: Midfielder, Shinji Kagawa. The Dortmund Midfielder will be key on counter attacks and his leadership as one of the team’s stars will be crucial.

WC History: 6 Appearances, 2 Round of 16 appearances.

Fun Fact: Japan is made up of 6,852 islands.

Poland (+8000 to win, +200 to win group)

Overview: Led by superstar striker Robert Lewandowski, Poland’s ceiling can be higher than many may expect. All of their positions have a quality player in it, and although there are minor holes to fill, they were a team that went 8-1-1 with 28 goals scored in qualifying. Many opponents will overlook them and they even have a shot at winning the group if they can beat Colombia in the second match. They also have a solid keeper in Wojciech Szczesny (yes, that’s the spelling I checked 5 times) who will replacing Buffon at Juventus next season most likely and has had years of Premier League experience.

Strengths: Having one of the world’s best pure finishers on your team can really help you in a World Cup. If the team can stay strong enough at the back and if Lewandowski can put a few goals in the group stage I can see them finishing second in this group. I know I’ve said before that you can’t be too top heavy in this tournament, but I like the way Poland is structured top to bottom.

Weaknesses: Outside of Lewandowski they are built well, but can they fight off the attacks of Senegal and Colombia? They have a few quality midfielders and defenders all who got time in top 5 leagues, but can the rest of the team keep their head above water? These questions may be answered very quickly in match 1.

Key Player: Striker, Robert Lewandowski. Anyone who scored 29 goals in 30 matches in any league is a threat, let alone in the Bundesliga. He has been terrorizing defenses and goalies for years including internationally and he will need to score the goals for this team, maybe even all of them. Luckily for Poland, he should up for the task.

WC History: 7 appearances, 2 third place finishes (1974 and 1982).

Fun Fact: Poland boasts 17 Nobel Prize winners.

Senegal (+15000 to win, +400 to win group)

Overview: This Senegal team, much like their group mates Poland, are sneaky good. Led by Liverpool star Sadio Mane, the Senegalese have quality players top to bottom who play for solid squads in Europe’s top 5 leagues. They have fantastic attacking depth and could be the best team to come out of Africa this summer along with Nigeria. They have 6 players who were at the very least in the rotation for Premier League clubs and have 8 others who got time in the best leagues in Europe. I think Vegas is undervaluing them here and I also believe Senegal has the opportunity to shock a few people this summer.

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Senegal after qualifying for the World Cup

Strengths: Supporting cast behind Sadio Mane. To name a few; Keita from Monaco, Kouyate from West Ham, Gueye from Everton and Biram Diouf for Stoke City all played important roles for teams in both the Premier League and League 1 in France. Yes, most of the load will be carried by Mane but his supporting cast up top and in the midfield will be the reason why they can get through to the Round of 16.

Weaknesses: Goalkeeper options. Not only have none of their goalies had solid time on a solid team or in a solid league, but their only two options they have are 23 and 24 years old. Goalkeeping howlers can lose you a match and a few slip ups in net could be the reason you don’t make it out of the group in the World Cup. We’ll have to see if they can step up for their country between the posts.

Key Player: Forward, Sadio Mane. Mane had 10 goals and 7 assists in the Premier League and 10 goals in 13 matches in the Champions League in Liverpool’s prolific front three. He needs to step up and set the tempo for this Senegal team.

WC History: 2nd appearance, 1 Quarterfinal appearance.

NEUTRAL FAN ALERT: This team can make a run and they are extremely fun to watch. This group will also be full of goals as well, making it prime World Cup entertainment.

Fun Fact: Rapper Akon was raised in Senegal and spent most of his childhood there.

Good Bet: Senegal to advance out of the group at (+130). I think they match up against Poland well and if they win that match, it opens a path to the second spot in the group.

Group Prediction: 1st. Colombia, 2nd. Senegal, 3. Poland, 4. Japan.

Thanks for reading my preview blogs! I hope everyone can enjoy the best month of sports (sorry March Madness but this takes the cake) even though the U.S. isn’t involved. Find a team, place some bets and enjoy the world coming together for a month.

If you missed my Groups A-D preview, you can find it HERE.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo // @canikickitblog 

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Nico

One thought on “2018 World Cup Guide, Groups E-H

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