Poland are the favourites to win their final match against Japan, although there is certainly a case for both teams here. Group H is perhaps the most difficult to pick of all eight pools and the only one that doesn’t feature a former winner, meaning both these teams, along with Senegal and Colombia, are a chance of advancing to the second round.
The Europeans came into this group as the top seed and will fancy themselves to get all three points against Japan, who are ranked more than fifty places below them in the FIFA standings. Yet despite the gulf there isn’t a huge disparity in the initial odds. Poland start at -111, while Japan are paying +313 and the draw is available at +244.
Our pre-tournament prediction for Group H sees Poland struggle against the Colombians and Senegalese, meaning a win is absolutely essential for the Europeans here. Japan too will have failed against both nations, and even a win may not save them for an early exit from the tournament.
Context is always a factor in the third group stage matches. If Japan are only playing for pride, they may prove to be a thorn in the side of a Polish team seeking a necessary victory, although if both teams are still in with a chance of progression then you would have to go with Poland simply because they are the better team on paper.
Poland have a fantastic record against Asian nations, although Japan’s record against Europeans at the World Cup is also notable. Poland certainly don’t boast a lineup like France, Spain or Germany, which will give Japan plenty of hope.
It’s a much tougher match to pick than most would have you believe. Japan will be set up defensively and look to stifle out any possible Robert Lewandowski-led attacks. We actually believe the sides will finish level here and are predicting a frustrating 0-0 stalemate that will see both sides eliminated from the tournament.
When: Thursday, Jun 28 (10am ET)
Where: Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
TV: FOX, Telemundo*