FiveThirtyEight has been inspecting every of the eight teams within the 2018 World Cup, which begins Thursday in Russia. Examine Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E, Group F and Group G.

Group H is probably probably the most fascinating in Russia this summer season. Whereas the typical group distinction in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Energy Index rating between the most effective and worst groups is about 25, Senegal’s SPI score of 66.zero is simply 14.5 factors decrease than Colombia’s 80.5. Poland (73.three) and Japan (71.four) are rated very equally in the midst of the group. On high of this, the groups are full of thrilling attacking gamers from Europe’s strongest leagues: Poland’s Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Colombia’s James Rodríguez (Bayern Munich), Japan’s Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) and Senegal’s Sadio Mané (Liverpool) will all be battling to make an impression on the world’s largest stage.

Paper tiger or legit contender?

After lacking three straight World Cups, Colombia made an enormous impression within the 2014 World Cup — even with out Radamel Falcao, who was unable to recover from injury in time to play. 4 years later, Los Cafeteros’ talismanic striker is again, however he’s now not the star of the group: After finishing as the top scorer with six goals in Rio, Rodríguez has turn into the point of interest of an thrilling Colombian assault, which boasts a 69 p.c likelihood of creating it to the knockout stage.

José Pékerman’s squad likes to assault straight in open play — in 41 matches tracked by knowledge agency Opta Sports activities because the 2014 World Cup, Colombia reached the opposition by way of enjoying a string of 10 or extra profitable passes solely 75 occasions, simply lower than twice a sport. As a substitute, the aspect depends extra on assaults during which at the least 50 p.c of the motion is towards the opposition purpose, with a ratio of those “direct” to “gradual” assaults of four.2-to-1.eight. Defensively, they function a medium block, regaining the ball within the center space of the pitch 23.three occasions per sport — greater than some other group in South American qualifying.

Poland, marginally the second favourite in Group H with a 55 p.c likelihood of ending first or second, is even extra reliant on its star participant, Lewandowski.1 In qualifying, the towering striker was Poland’s high shot taker and purpose scorer, and he additionally created probably the most Opta-defined “large possibilities” for his teammates. With 16 targets, he scored greater than any other player in European qualifying, both scoring or aiding on 61 p.c of Poland’s targets.

Underdog or also-ran?

Japan, with a 43 p.c likelihood of getting by means of the group, is one thing of an unknown on condition that it modified supervisor in April, with Akira Nishino taking charge. The aspect’s two important attackers, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, have a wealth of expertise representing their nation on the worldwide stage, however they’ve been considerably ineffective over the previous few years, each being dropped by previous managers. With a median age of 28.6, the squad is severely missing in younger expertise.

Skillful wingers Keita Baldé and Mané supply Senegal’s important risk in assault, whereas the towering defensive presence of Kalidou Koulibaly makes the backbone of the group appear stronger than its 33 p.c likelihood of development could counsel. Given the relative equality of the group, a robust efficiency from Senegal in its opener towards Poland might dramatically change expectations.

Participant to look at

In 2014, James Rodríguez was a relative unknown who went on to turn into the archetype of a World Cup breakout. However after a disappointing transfer to Actual Madrid culminated in a mortgage to Bayern Munich this 12 months, the left-footed magician returns to the worldwide stage with some extent to show.

Rodríguez is coming off the again of a redemptive season during which he was the most effective creators in Germany and performed a equally dominant attacking position: He accomplished extra passes per 90 minutes than any attacker within the Bundesliga to have performed greater than 25 p.c of accessible minutes. He was additionally tied for fifth in anticipated assists per 90 minutes in open play, and he assisted the second most photographs per 90 from set items.

Rodríguez is certainly one of Germany’s high creators

Bundesliga leaders in anticipated assists in open play (excluding penalty photographs and direct free kicks) per 90 minutes, 2017-18

ParticipantCrewAnticipated Assists per 90
Thomas MullerBayern Munichzero.43
Karim BellarabiBayer Leverkusenzero.35
Jadon SanchoBorussia Dortmundzero.33
Mahmoud DahoudBorussia Dortmundzero.32
James RodríguezBayern Munichzero.30
Leon BaileyBayer Leverkusenzero.30
Kingsley ComanBayern Munichzero.29
Mario GotzeBorussia Dortmundzero.29
Franck RiberyBayern Munichzero.29
Fin BartelsWerder Bremenzero.27

Minimal of 600 minutes performed

Supply: Soccer Whispers

In qualifying, Rodríguez scored and assisted on extra targets than any of his teammates, whereas additionally having probably the most photographs and touches of the ball. Whereas he could not have turn into a Galactico in Madrid, he’s indisputably his nation’s most vital participant.

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