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