It’s Lewandowski vs Rodriguez
On the day the World Cup draw was made, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski tweeted: “I remember your great goals during the last World Cup. I hope you will remember mine from Russia.” That tweet was addressed to his Bayern Munich teammate James Rodriguez, the Colombian star who stunned the world in Brazil four years ago. The two gifted goalpoachers, who helped their team retain the Bundesliga crown, will come face to face on June 24. That match could well decide who wins Group H. The presence of Senegal and Japan makes the group fascinating and truly universal, with teams from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia.
In Robert Lewandowski, Poland has one of the world’s best strikers. But he isn’t the only reason the eastern European team could go far in the tournament. Poland was impressive in the qualifying phase, losing only one match in its group. The side scored 28 goals as it topped the pool and earned a ticket to Russia directly. In goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, defenders Kamil Glik and Lukas Piszczek, midfielders Grzegorz Krychowiak, Piotr Zeilinsky and Karol Linetty and striker Arkadiusz Milik, Poland has men who could play their role adequately. And if their captain continues to be as freescoring as he has been in the qualifiers and the Bundesliga, the Poles could make their return to the World
Cup after 12 years count.
Goalkeepers: Bartosz Bialkowski, Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny.
Defenders: Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszynski, Thiago Cionek, Kamil Glik,lukasz Piszczek, Artur Jedrzejczyk, 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.
World Cup record
Third place in 1974, 1982
Four years ago in Brazil, Colombia took the world by surprise by reaching the quarterfinals, where it went down fighting to the host. Now, the team looks even stronger, especially up front, with striker Radamel Falcao set to make his World Cup debut after missing the last edition due to injury. Falcao will be the ideal foil for James Rodriguez, the winner of the Golden Boot in Brazil. The defence – with Santiago Arias, Frank Fabra, Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina – and midfield – Juan Cuadrado – both look solid. But if the side wants to repeat its success at the last World Cup, it will have to put up a better effort than it did in the qualifiers, where it finished fourth.
Goalkeepers: David Ospina, Camilo Vargas, Jose Fernando Cuadrado.
Defenders: Cristian Zapata, Davinson Sanchez, Santiago Arias, Oscar Murillo, Johan Mojica, Yerry Mina.
Midfielders: Wilmar Barrios, Carlos Sanchez, Jefferson Lerma, Jose Izquierdo, James Rodriguez, Abel Aguilar, Mateus Uribe, Juan Fernando Quintero, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado.
Forwards: Radamel Falcao, Miguel Borja, Carlos Bacca, Luis Fernando Muriel.
World Cup record
Quarterfinals in 2014
Senegal has played at the World Cup only once before and that appearance is still talked about – the side shocked defending champion France in its first match and went on to reach the quarters in 2002. But Senegal may not be thinking about the last eight at the moment. The team is placed in a tough group. However, Senegal has the
quality to entertain hopes of toppling its more fancied and experienced rivals and is banking on men like Sadio Mane, fresh off a fine season with Liverpool, Cheikhou Kouyate, Idrissa Gueye, Keita Balde and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo, Alfred Gomis, Khadim
Defenders: Lamine Gassama, Saliou Ciss, Kalidou Koulibaly, Kara Mbodii, Youssouf Sabaly, Salif Sane, Moussa Wague.
Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate, Alfred Ndiaye, Badou Ndiaye, Cheikh Ndoye, Ismaila Sarr. Forwards: Keita Balde, Mame Biram Diouf, Moussa Konate, Sadio Mane, Mbaye Niang, Diafra Sakho, Moussa Sow.
World Cup record
1 appearance: Quarterfinals in 2002
Japan hasn’t missed out on a single World Cup since debuting in 1998, twice making it to the knockout stages. But it will find the going a lot tougher in Russia, where
it’s been placed with three higherranked rivals. But you can’t write off its chances straight away – the side is too experienced for that.
Many of their players, like Keisuke Honda, Eiji Kawashima, Yuto Nagatomo, Shinji Okazaki and Makoto Hasebe, have played in the last two World Cups. Maya Yoshida, who played in Brazil, is another seasoned campaigner.
And there’s some exciting young talent in the form of Takumo Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi.
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima, Masaaki Higashiguchi,
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo, Tomoaki Makino, Wataru Endo, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Gotoku Sakai, Gen Shoji, Naomichi Ueda.
Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe, Keisuke Honda, Takashi Inui, Shinji Kagawa, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Genki Haraguchi, Takashi Usami, Gaku Shibasaki, Ryota Oshima.
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki, Yuya Osako, Yoshinori Muto.
World Cup record
Round of 16 in 2002, 2010
Impressive: In Robert Lewandowski, Poland has one of the world’s best strikers.
Making it count: Colombia took the world by surprise by reaching the quarterfinals, where it went down fighting to the host, Brazil, in 2014. Now, the team looks even stronger, especially up front.
Exciting young talent: Japan hasn’t missed out on a single World Cup since debuting in 1998, twice making it to the knockout stages.