It’s Le­wandowski vs Ro­driguez

Sportstar - - GROUP H - P.K. AJITH KU­MAR

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.

POLAND

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.

Squad

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

7 ap­pear­ances

Third place in 1974, 1982

COLOM­BIA

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.

Squad

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

5 ap­pear­ances

Quar­ter­fi­nals in 2014

SENE­GAL

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.

Squad

Goal­keep­ers: Ab­doulaye Diallo, Al­fred Gomis, Khadim

Ndi­aye.

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

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.

Squad

Goal­keep­ers: Eiji Kawashima, Masaaki Hi­gashiguchi,

Ko­suke Naka­mura.

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

5 ap­pear­ances

Round of 16 in 2002, 2010

AFP

Im­pres­sive: In Robert Le­wandowski, Poland has one of the world’s best strikers.

AFP

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.

AFP

Ex­cit­ing young ta­lent: Ja­pan hasn’t missed out on a sin­gle World Cup since de­but­ing in 1998, twice mak­ing it to the knock­out stages.

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