Houston Chronicle - - SOCCER -

Pre­dicted order of fin­ish: Colom­bia, Poland, Ja­pan, Sene­gal.

Out­look: Al­though Poland avoided the ti­tans in the group stage, the Poles still have their work cut out for them. The mar­quee fig­ure is Robert Le­wandowski, who scored 89 league goals the past three Bay­ern Mu­nich cam­paigns and 10 in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing.

Poland will need his scor­ing to fin­ish ahead of Colom­bia, which is more tal­ented and tested to go deep in the tour­na­ment. Top billing goes to James Ro­driguez, the 2014 Golden Boot win­ner with six goals dur­ing a quar­ter­fi­nal run.

Sene­gal is mak­ing its first ap­pear­ance since reach­ing the 2002 quar­ter­fi­nals and, with al­most the en­tire squad ply­ing its trade in top Euro­pean coun­tries, the Lions of Teranga could very well claim a round-of-16 berth.

Liver­pool’s Sa­dio Mane leads a high­pow­ered at­tack, and Kali­dou Koulibaly brings four years of start­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on Napoli’s back line.

Ja­pan has ap­peared at the World Cup each time since its 1998 de­but, hav­ing al­ter­nated group fail­ures with roundof-16 slots the pre­vi­ous five tour­na­ments.

There isn’t much op­ti­mism this time after a series of dis­ap­point­ing re­sults and the March fir­ing of coach Vahid Halil­hodzic. Keisuke Honda, Shinji Ka­gawa and Makoto Hasebe will need to ap­ply their vast Euro­pean club ex­pe­ri­ence.

Martin Me­jia / As­so­ci­ated Press

Colom­bia’s James Ro­driguez won the Golden Boot in 2014 with six goals.

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