We have said from the start that Group H is one of the tightest at the 2018 World Cup, and we were proved to be absolutely correct as the two underdogs Senegal and Japan were victorious first up. This second round of matches will have a huge impact on the final group standings, and could potentially eliminate a big gun from contention.
While Poland will face Colombia in a crucial match between the former group favourites, this match between Senegal and Japan is just as important, as it will help secure an unlikely Round of 16 berth for the winning side.
Japan come into this match after a tough test against Colombia, who were brave and probably would have won if not for their early red card. Asian teams rarely succeed at the World Cup, although Japan have made it to the Round of 16 in every other year since they first qualified in 1998 - they're due for another trip to the knockout stage, but will need to get the job done against Senegal or risk needing points against Poland.
Meanwhile the Senegalese will face Colombia after this match, and they too will be under no illusions as to how difficult that match will be. For this reason, it's imperative that they pick up at least a point here, although even that result may not be quite enough to get them over the line. It's certainly going to be interesting to see it unfold.
The most interesting statistic in the build up to this match is just how often Japan and Senegal score in the second-half of matches compared to the first. It's quite astounding that Senegal managed to score nearly 50% of their qualification goals in the final fifteen minutes, which is a tribute to their stamina and resolve. Japan too are more likely to score in the second period, so we could see a slow start and a fast finish here.
In saying that, both sides scored first in their opening games, however one was a penalty and one a deflected goal, so there was certainly an element of fortune.
Both sides were particularly miserly in defence throughout their 2018 qualification campaign, with Japan preferring to play on the counter and Senegal also setting up with pace in the attacking third. Senegal were lightning fast against Poland, although Japan boost plenty of pace themselves. It's going to be a cracking match.
The odds certainly back our theory that this will be a close, low-scoring match. Senegal enter as the slight favourite, offering fantastic odds of +125 for the win. Japan is the slight outsider at +243, while the draw is unusually low in price, paying +207.
We feel as though there will be a winner here, and are backing the Africans to get the win. Our prediction is a 1-0 victory with a second-half goal to the Senegalese.