Poland will be making their eight appearance in FIFA World Cup next summer in Russia. Poland had their best performance in the 1974 World Cup. They held England to a draw in a dramatic match at Wembley Stadium to qualify for the finals.
Prolific striker Grzegorz Lato helped Poland reach the semi-finals, where the deciding game against the eventual champions Germany resulted in a narrow 0-1 defeat. Poland, however ended the tournament on a high, by defeating Brazil 1–0 to claim third place in the tournament.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Poland were comfortable winners of UEFA group F, that consisted of Denmark, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan. They won 8 of their games, with one draw and loss apiece.
THEIR CHANCES: This is arguably the best Polish team we have seen since the 70’s. However, they kept just one clean sheet during the qualifiers; and could be punished in Russia if they fail to “lock up”. Meanwhile, they are good enough to get beyond the second round.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Robert Lewandowski, Kamil Grosicki. Lukasz Fabianski.
KEY PLAYER: Robert Lewandowski; The man that finished the UEFA qualifiers as top scorer with 16 goals; the man that leads the line for German Champions, Bayern Munich. He is the Captain of “the White-reds”. Watch out for Lewandowski in Russia.
Colombia has appeared in the finals of the FIFA World Cup on five occasions in 1962, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2014. The 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil was Colombia’s best outing in the tournament. They came out tops in a group that had Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan. They beat Uruguay in the knockout phase, but were eventually knocked out by hosts – Brazil in the quarter finals.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Colombia won 7, drew six and lost five of their games, finishing fourth on the CONMEBOL table, and avoided the nervy playoffs.
THEIR CHANCES: Considering their quality, getting beyond the Group stage in Russia wouldn’t be seen as a huge achievement. Colombia can hold their ground against the World’s best and can go as far as the quarter finals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Captain Radamel Falcao might seem a spent force now, but he still have that knack for scoring goals. James Rodriguez, Juan Coldrado and David Ospina will equally be as important.
KEY MAN: James Rodriguez. The 26-years old forward starred in the last World Cup which earned him a big money move to Real Madrid. He is always on the spotlight whenever he is playing for La Tricolors. Beware of El Diez in Russia!
Japan is one of the most successful teams in Asia. They have appeared in the finals of the FIFA World Cup on five occasions, the first being in 1998 where they lost all three group games and finished in 31st position. Masashi Nakayama scored Japan’s first ever goal in a World Cup Finals against Jamaica on 26 June 1998 in a 2-1 defeat. Japan’s best outing was in the 2002 finals they co-hosted with Korea. Samurai Blue won Group H, beating Russia, and Tunisia but were held by Belgium. However, they subsequently exited the tournament during the round of 16, after losing 1–0 to eventual third-place finishers Turkey.
They will make their sixth appearance at the finals in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Samurai Blue won AFC Group B, that also had Saudi Arabia, Australia, UAE, Iraq and Thailand in it. They won six of their games, with two draws and two losses.
THEIR CHANCES: Advancing to the round of 16 would be phenomenal considering the Group they found themselves in, and getting beyond that would be an excellent achievement. However, it will take something special to see them in the quarter finals.
STARS OF THE TEAM: Shinji Okazaki, Genii Haraguchi, Takuma Asano, Yuya Osako, and Shinji Kagawa.
KEY PLAYER: Takuma Asano; The 22-year old Arsenal striker on loan at Stuttgart, helped his German club gain promotion to Bundesliga, and scored twice for his country during the qualifiers. He will be instrumental for his country during the finals.
Senegal will be making their second World Cup appearance in Russia next year. The Terenga Lions stunned the World during their debut in 2002 at Korea/Japan; finishing runners up to Denmark in a group that also had former World Champions Uruguay and France. Senegal defeated Sweden in the second round before loosing the quarter finals 1-0 to Turkey in extra time.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Senegal were quite impressive during the qualifiers. They didn’t loose any of their third round qualification matches in CAF Group D where Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa came short. Remarkably, apart from that goalless draw versus Burkina Faso on September 2, 2017, in Dakar, Senegal scored more than one goal in each of their third round qualifying games.
THEIR CHANCES: It was a huge surprise when Senegalese midfielder Pape Bouba Diop scored that 30th minute goal in Seol that set France on their way home from the 2002 finals. This present squad are just capable of the extra-ordinary, only if they can start the tournament well. Besides, goal scoring responsibilities are shared among the team.
STARS TO WATCH: Saido Mane, Vincent Aboubakar, Naby Keita, Diafra Sakho.
KEY MAN: Saido Mane; Liverpool’s forward and Africa most expensive player, Mane scored just once during the qualifiers for Senegal, but his importance to the team can not be overemphasized. He helped his national team reach the quarterfinals of AFCON in . You can bet on him lead the Terenga Lions in Russia.