Group H was always going to be a competitive, but we didn’t envisage quite so many upsets. Japan won against Colombia thanks to a penalty and red card in the opening few minutes while Senegal beat Poland thanks to a controversial winning goal by M’Baye Niang, coming back onto the field from an injury break to intercept a back pass and score. Both these sides are similar in terms of our rankings which is an accurate assessment of this matchup.
Senegal (35th) have been in fine fettle, winning 20 of their last 34 matches since the start of qualification and against teams we rank between 25th and 40th like Japan (28th), have won four of their last seven matches since 2015, with five of these seeing fewer than three goals. Moreover, Japan against similar opposition have seen fewer than three goals in both their last two, as well as nine of their last 11 recent matches at both neutral and away venues against all teams.
Since 1990, there have been 16 World Cup matches in the second round of group games between two teams that both won their openers and half of those have been goalless at half-time. Combine that with Aliou Cisse’s defensive tactics then this first half can only go one way, as Senegal have been level at the break in 15 of their last 21 matches. Furthermore, neither side will go for broke given they’re happy with their position and a point will suffice for them..
Sadio Mane is the most likely man to break the deadlock, scoring in half of his last four major tournament matches. Interestingly, both of those goals were the first of the match and given VAR’s influence on the increasing the amount of penalties, we are behind the Senegal captain and penalty taker to strike again.