FIFA Fever: Will Senegal save face for Africa?
After a weekend of upsets and not quite as expected results, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for football pundits to predict the winners. No one expected Iceland to hold Argentina to a one-all draw or Brazil and Switzerland in a 1-1 tie, and of course, the biggest surprise of all – Mexico beating defending champions Germany 1-0 in their opening match, with ecstatic Mexican fans even triggering earthquake sensors!
This has only heightened the expectations of fans, as the tournament moves through the Group stages. Sweden captain, Andreas Granqvist cinches a victory for his team in a penalty against Korea Republic. Belgium proves their fitness by thrashing Panama 3-0, goals scored by Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku. England struggles with African team Tunisia, however, Harry Kane delivers his team by scoring 2 goals. Ferjani Sassi of Tunisia is the first African to score a goal this tournament.
Raised in the company of top teams such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, Colombia has a lot to live up to in FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. They made their mark in the previous WC after making it to the quarter-finals. Football fans will be viewing their game closely and so will the other teams in Group H.
Colombia has had its fair share of misfortune after their defender Frank Fabra suffered a knee injury and has been ruled out of action. Defender Cristian Zapata also suffered an injury but has been deemed fit to play and will return to the WC stage. Despite this they won a narrow victory against Paraguay in the WC qualifiers and snagged a seat to Russia. The Colombian squad arrived in Russia ahead of the other teams in a bid to relax ahead of the WC. Coach Jose Pekerman, formerly of Argentina, has lead several successful campaigns since he took hold of the reins in 2012. Colombia’s star player James Rodriguez will be pivotal in their offensive against Japan.
Japan has a lot to fear from Colombia after losing to them 1-4 in the previous WC. Furthermore, Japan has faced Colombia in 3 international matches since 2003 and has never won once. Perhaps it is fate or bad luck that they get to face their old rivals once again. This year, the Japanese team is in a flux after the recent dismissal of their coach Valid Halihodzic, followed by the appointment of Akira Nishino. Nishino had only 2 months to prepare Japan for the WC. However, the team is not lacking in experience as they have made it to the WC in 2010 and 2014. Neither are they lacking in strength with players such as Hiroki Sakai one of Asia’s top right backs, Makoto Hasebe, veteran midfielder known to keep his composure under pressure, and the experienced forward, Keisuke Honda,who is expected to lead the attack.
The match between these two teams begins at 5.30 pm (IST). Won’t be able to make it home for the match? Worry not, you can stream the match anywhere on your mobile phone by downloading the SonyLIV app. SonyLIV is the official Mobile and Internet broadcaster for the FIFA World Cup in Russia. You can switch between 6 language feeds on their platform and watch the match for free with a 5 minute delay or avail their ‘Super Sports’ pack for just Rs.199 for 6 months.
Anticipation is rife around Senegal as they are the sole African team yet to lose their opening game this WC. By reaching the quarter-finals in their debut WC in 2002, Senegal made history. After defying expectations the first time, an uncomfortable spotlight has fallen on the team that might add to the pressure during the match. Former captain of Senegal in 2002 and now their coach, Aliou Cisse, has made an impressive run since 2015, guiding his team on an unbeaten streak in Group D of the African qualifiers. It will be interesting to see how the African team will fare in Group H that comprises of the foreign football styles of Europe, Asia, and South America.
Poland has come a long way since Adam Nawalka took over, rising from their dismal 69th ranking to 8th in the duration preceding this WC. One of the highlights of Nawalka’s career was when Poland reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016. Poland has worked really hard and are expected to go far. This year, their offensive strength revolves around Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, who has clocked 16 goals in his 10 appearances and was the top scorer in the WC qualifiers. Poland has enough potential to make it to the quarter-finals. Their performance in Group H will be telling of their future progress. Their match against Senegal begins at 8.30 pm (IST).
Russia will be gunning for greater glory after a very convincing 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the WC opening match. We are hedging our bets on a similar victory against Egypt, which had lost its opening match with Uruguay by a solitary goal. If Mohammed Salah continues to remain on the bench for their upcoming match, Egypt is expected to lose their momentum on the attack. Then the only question that remains is how long will the Egyptian defense will hold out against the battering ram that is Russia? Unafraid of making bold moves, Russia is sure to take the initiative against Egypt if they fail to put on the pressure. All hopes rest on their coach Hector Cuper. Another defeat will likely bring an end to Egypt’s WC 2018 quest. The least that they will need to do is push for a tie. Catch their game at 11.30 pm (IST).