2018 World Cup Soccer Odds and Expert Picks: Group H
The odds suggest that this is the tightest, most evenly-contested group in the World Cup this year, and it is certainly hard to argue with that notion. Any one of these four teams could advance and it wouldn't be a surprise. And any team could go home after their first three games, and they wouldn't hugely be missed. This is the only group you can say that about in the tournament. The winner of the tournament is not coming from this group - and it's quite possible that a team from this group won't even be in the quarterfinals. But that doesn't mean that this doesn't have a good chance to be an interesting, and hopefully profitable, group.
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Group H at a glance
Best team: It's probably Poland, but the gap is small. Poland was in the highest of the four pots of teams in the selection process, but they were the team, outside of the host Russians, who least seemed to fit in that group. The team has plenty of talent but not as much depth as top teams - which is something you can say about any team in the group.
Worst team: Again, it's probably Japan, but not by any clear margin. This team has some intriguing talent and at times can be really aggressive, but they lack consistency. Still, they have advanced in two of the last four World Cups, and they aren't noticeably worse now than they were then, so anything is possible.
Best game: You could take your pick of almost any game in this group to put here. I'll take Poland and Colombia for one big reason - aside from the fact that the odds suggest that they are the two favorites. Poland's superstar Robert Lewandowski and Colombia's James Rodriguez are not only the two best players in this group, but they are club teammates at Bayern Munich. They know each other well, they practice against each other, and you can be sure they'll both want to have bragging rights when they return to Germany. That could lead to fireworks.
Predicted order of finish: You could throw these four teams into any order and I wouldn't argue. Just for kicks let's go with Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan. But my strength of conviction in that order is essentially zero.
Team-by-team Breakdown (odds to win Group and tournament from BetOnline )
Colombia (+2800 to win tournament, +130 to win Group H): This team made some noise in Brazil four years ago when they advanced out of the group stage, beat Uruguay and then gave the hosts a real scare in the quarterfinals. And much of that same roster is back, older but hopefully wiser. Along with Rodriguez, guys like Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao are experienced and productive. It isn't all old guys bearing the load, though. Young Davinson Sanchez has the makings of a star defender, and this could be his coming-out party. The team is well coached - Jose Pekerman coached Argentina in the 2006 World Cup and has been in charge of this squad since 2012.
Poland (+4000, +170): Robert Lewandowski is a world-class striker. He's a very competitive +2500 to be the top scorer in the tournament, and that's even considering he plays for a team that isn't likely to go on a deep run. Lewandowski scored 16 times in 10 qualifying games - the guy is really, really good. The team hasn't been in the World Cup since 2006, so anything they accomplish here is a bonus. This team is not as deep as some and will only go as far as their star takes them. But that could certainly be worse.
Senegal (+12,500, +400): The Lions of Teranga have the best nickname in the tournament. And they are also among the more athletic teams in the tournament. These guys will not be boring to watch in any way. They have talent, but two guys stand out above the crowd. Kalidou Koulibaly plays center back for Napoli and is a world-class defender. And Sadio Mane is a star offensive force for Liverpool. The only time this squad has been at the World Cup was 2002, but they made a run all the way to the quarterfinals, so their lack of experience won't overwhelm them. Coach Aliou Cisse was the captain of that 2002 team, so he has experience to draw on that his team doesn't.
Japan (+20,000, +750): Japan has been in the last five World Cups, advancing twice, so they are actually the most experienced team in this group. Striker Shinji Kagawa is a key here. He's playing really well right now at Borussia Dortmund, but he hasn't always risen to the occasion in big tournaments. He needs to be at his best here because the other three teams can all score. Manager Vahid Halilhodzic took Senegal to the World Cup in 2014, and shockingly he got them to the knockout round. Things almost got really crazy there when they stayed scoreless with Germany through 90 minutes before losing in extra time. He took over this team soon after, and he is an asset.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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