Group H: Japan vs Senegal - soccer world cup Preview

Two players compete for ball

Asia and Africa clash for the first time at these finals as Japan and Senegal look to build on opening round wins. 

Japan and Senegal won against far more illustrious opposition on the opening day of Group H fixtures. Japan overcame 10-man Colombia before Senegal drew first blood for Africa with a 2-1 victory over Poland. Both sides know that a win on Sunday will ensure qualification to the next round.

The Africans come into this one as favourites but will need to be wary of the wily Japanese who surprised many pundits with their superb second-half performance against Colombia.

Japan vs Senegal | Sunday 24 June | Ekaterinburg Arena | 17:00

To Win Match
Japan 24/10
Draw 21/10
Senegal 12/10

Japan
Japan’s win over Colombia has probably been the second biggest surprise at the soccer world cup after Mexico’s 1-0 victory over the Germans. Akira Nishino’s men were full value for those three points too, flying out of the blocks to take an early lead from the penalty spot after Carlos Sanchez deliberately handled the ball in the box.

The offence saw the Colombian midfielder receive his marching orders, leaving the South Americans with a veritable mountain to climb. And while the Japanese struggled to assert themselves in the first half and allowed Colombia back in the game, their second-half performance was simply sensational.

They’ll need to be frugal in possession again against Senegal. Giving the ball away cheaply will play into the hands of Aliou Cisse’s men who love nothing more than a good counter-attack. Even if they are successful in this regard, I feel like they’ll struggle to front up against the physical threat posed by Sadio Mane and his charges.

Senegal
The relatively small West African nation is abuzz after a thrilling 2-1 win over a very strong Polish side. Idrissa Gueye’s deflected effort – the goal awarded as an OG against Thiago Cionek – opened the scoring before a calamitous mix-up at the back allowed M’Baye Niang to slot home unopposed.

Of course, Senegal were on the back foot for large periods of that match as illustrated by the possession stats. Cisse’s men were certainly very clinical, however, with their two shots on target resulting in two goals.

Looking ahead, I definitely think that the pace and the power of the Senegalese players will cause the Asian team problems. There were times against Colombia where the notably smaller Japanese team (they’re the second shortest side at the tournament ahead of Saudi Arabia) struggled to match-up to their opposition, and they’re tipped to battle once again this Sunday.

Verdict: Senegal 12/10
The West Africans most certainly have the physical advantage here, and many would agree that they are perhaps technically better too. Back them to book their passage into the next round with a win against a spirited Japanese outfit. 

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Written by Jason Dewey for Hollywoodbets

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