World Cup group stage/last 16 preview26th Jun 2018 |
Japan vs Poland (Group H)
Japan’s 2-2 draw with Senegal last time out leaves them in an excellent position in Group H: avoid defeat against Poland, who are already eliminated, and the Samurai Blue will be safely though to the knockout phase of the competition. Akira Nishino’s side have been one of the surprise packages of the World Cup so far, having largely been written off before a ball had been kicked in Russia. The new manager has done a fine job of restoring traditional Japanese principles focused on possession football and short passing, and it has paid dividends up to now. Poland, conversely, have been one of the biggest disappointments we have seen in the group stage, but they could battle back to pick up a face-saving point in their final encounter. Back a draw at 21/10.
Senegal vs Colombia (Group H)
Colombia delivered one of the most impressive performances of the World Cup so far at the weekend, blowing Poland away 3-0 to put themselves in contention for a place in the round of 16. James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and Juan Fernando Quintero were all superb in attack, playing fast, technical football to which Poland had no answer. Senegal twice led in their meeting with Japan but were pegged back and ultimately held to a 2-2 draw, which leaves them in a tricky predicament here. Another tie would be enough to send the Lions of Teranga through, but momentum is building with this Colombia side and I fancy them to triumph – back Jose Pekerman’s side to win a match featuring more than 2.5 goals at 19/10.
Uruguay v Portugal (Round of 16)
There was late drama as Group B reached its conclusion on Monday evening, with late goals in both Iran vs Portugal (a 1-1 draw) and Morocco vs Spain (a 2-2 stalemate) seeing the two favourites swap places in the standings. That means Fernando Santos’ side will face Group A winners Uruguay on Saturday to determine which of the two reaches the quarter-finals. Both sides prefer to play reactive, back-foot football, and there is a good chance that this will be a scrappy, low-scoring affair – particularly as the stakes are even higher now we have reached the knockout stage. Under 1.5 goals looks like a sure-fire bet at 27/20.
Spain v Russia (Round of 16)
Iago Aspas’ late leveller in the aforementioned Morocco match was a huge goal for Spain, who now face Russia in the round of 16. The host nation were excellent in their first two games against Saudi Arabia and Egypt, before being well beaten by Uruguay in their final match in Group A. Being reduced to 10 men before half-time certainly did not help, but La Celeste were comfortably the better team even before they were handed a numerical advantage. It is hard to see Spain slipping up in this one, so I would recommend a win to nil for La Roja at a price of 5/4.
France v Argentina (Round of 16)
France and Denmark played out a dull goalless draw to conclude Group C and send both teams through to the knockout stage. Les Bleus remain unbeaten and are yet to concede a goal from open play in Russia, but they still look frustratingly less than the sum of their parts and Didier Deschamps will know his team need to improve if they are to go all the way. Argentina have also looked unconvincing throughout the group stage, but Lionel Messi and co. may now feel they have the bit between their teeth following their dramatic, qualification-sealing victory over Argentina on Tuesday night. The momentum appears to be with the Albiceleste at present, so back them to beat France at odds of 5/2.