Recommended World Cup bets: Tuesday
- Colombia 1-1 Japan
- Poland 1-1 Senegal
- Russia 0-1 Egypt
Colombia v Japan (Group H, BBC One, 1300 BST)
Group H is probably the toughest one to call at this year’s World Cup, with all four teams surely believing they can qualify for the knockout stages.
Colombia are the favourites to top the standings at 13/8, with Japan least fancied of all to qualify.
We have seen some surprise results so far and this clash is another with potential. Japan have showed in the last couple of World Cups their technical quality and tireless work-rate, and they could get a positive result here to get their campaign off to a good start.
A draw is fancied here and at 14/5 it could be worth a small play, while Japan-draw on a double chance is available at 13/10.
Colombia have drawn five out of their last nine fixtures, with two of those coming in their pre-World Cup warm-up friendlies against Australia and Egypt, so a failure to finish off games has been a problem of late.
Japan will enjoy the underdogs tag and the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa can inspire them going forward.
A score draw is available at 4s, while a draw and under 2.5 total goals is 3/1, but just heading to the match market is advised.
Prediction: Colombia 1-1 Japan (Sky Bet: 6/1) (George Pitts)
Best bet: Draw at 14/5
- Colombia are unbeaten against Japan (W2 D1). Their only previous World Cup encounter produced a 4-1 win for Colombia in June 2014; it was also Japan’s last game in the tournament.
- Japan are winless against South American sides at the World Cup (D1 L3).
- Colombia won four games in their last World Cup (2014), more than in their previous four appearances combined (3 wins in 13 games). 2014 is also the only time they have topped their group in the tournament.
- None of Colombia’s 18 games at the World Cup have ended goalless. In fact, only the USA (33) and Austria (29) have played more games in the competition without ever registering a 0-0.
- Japan have won only two of their last 11 World Cup games (D3 L6), against Cameroon and Denmark in June 2010. They’ve also won only one of their five opening games in the competition (D1 L3), against Cameroon in 2010.
- Keisuke Honda has been directly involved in five of Japan’s six goals over the last two World Cups (3 goals, 2 assists).
Poland v Senegal (Group H, ITV, 1600 BST)
Poland qualified from the European qualifiers in style. An efficient campaign saw the Poles top the group with their star striker Robert Lewandowski netting 16 goals in the process. Only one defeat and one draw meant they headed the group above a well-organised Danish side, securing automatic qualification.
Poland have, however, traditionally struggled in their opening World Cup ties having only won one of seven games, which came in a stunning 3-2 victory over Argentina in 1974.
This will be Senegal’s second appearance at the World Cup after their sensational debut tournament saw them reach the quarter-finals in 2002. They famously beat the then-reigning champions France in the opener in Seoul, which indicates that they are capable of stepping up to the plate.
Sadio Mane proved time and time again last campaign that he is the man for the big occasion, scoring in all of Liverpool’s Champions League knock-out rounds last season. The fact that Lewandowski and Mane are both playing leads me to believe that both teams have the ability to get among the goals.
Taking all this into consideration, it’s tough to see anything but a draw, with neither team wanting to lose.
Perhaps a cagey affair could see Poland score and dominate possession but struggle to turn it into anything insurmountable, with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly providing Senegal with a solid defensive stature, and from there I can see Senegal soaking up Polish pressure and nicking one on the break with the pace they have in Mane and Mame Biram Diouf.
Having said that, the Poles do have the players that can unlock defences, especially with Kamil Grosicki, who is an extremely clever footballer that will be expected to supply Lewandowski with the chances he needs to thrive, but the one I am particularly excited to see is Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski.
The 24-year-old played a pivotal role in the Italian side’s charge for the Scudetto last season, contributing to the fast-paced attacking football that took Juventus right to the wire. After goals against South Korea and Chile already this year for Poland, Zielinski is becoming a prominent figure for the national side, and an impressive World Cup would go a long way to becoming a household name.
At 12/1 he looks a value bet to win the Man of the Match award in this Group H opener.
Prediction: Poland 1-1 Senegal (Sky Bet: 5/1) (Billy Cundall)
- Poland are unbeaten in their three games against African opposition at the World Cup (W1 D2). These three games have produced only one goal.
- Poland have lost six of their last eight World Cup games (W2). They have also failed to keep a clean sheet in those last eight games, their last shut-out dating back to their 10 win against Portugal in 1986.
- Poland have won only one of their seven opening games at the World Cup (D3 L3), a 3-2 win vs Argentina in 1974. In fact, they haven’t scored a single goal in their last five openers. o Senegal have qualified for their second World Cup, after their inaugural participation in 2002 where they reached the quarter-finals before being eliminated by Turkey.
- Senegal were unbeaten in their only previous group phase appearance at the World Cup (W1 D2), which included a victory in the opening game against defending champions France (1-0).
- Robert Lewandowski was the top scorer in the 2018 European World Cup qualifiers with 16 goals. He netted 57% of Poland’s goals (16 out of 28). The only other Pole to score more than one goal was Kamil Grosicki (3).
- Diafra Sakho was the only Senegal player to score more than one goal in the third round of CAF qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. Meanwhile, no player delivered more assists than Sadio Mané in that qualifying section (3).
Russia v Egypt (Group A, BBC One, 1900 BST)
This one depends completely and utterly on the fitness of Mohamed Salah.
Egypt’s performance against Uruguay provided a lot of positives, but without a win in this second game they could be staring down the barrel of elimination already. Egypt defended well in the opener – they were organised and hard to break down but completely lacked any sort of attacking threat.
Throughout the game they had potential openings where it looked as though they could exploit Uruguay, but ultimately a lack of cutting edge was the downfall of the Egyptians who cruelly conceded in the closing minutes.
The Egyptian FA have declared Liverpool forward Salah fit, and perhaps the manager no longer has a choice whether or not to ‘risk it’ with the Premier League’s top scorer.
Russia, on the other hand, had the fairytale start in Moscow. A 5-0 spanking of Saudi Arabia has left the hosts top of Group A with a commanding goal difference and bags of confidence. Despite the scoreline, the result shouldn’t be read into too much. Saudi Arabia were extremely poor defensively and the amount of goals ultimately flattered the hosts who themselves were hardly breathtaking.
The thing about this encounter is that there is a temptation for Russia to enter it feeling over-confident and even complacent.
Egypt will be playing for their lives, and we’ve seen them show their character before when they dramatically qualified via a stoppage-time Salah penalty.
Egypt have never won a World Cup finals fixture, and it is no secret they are not a side capable of free-scoring, but if Salah is fit and they can repeat their defensive heroics, then a correct score group bet that points towards a narrow, low-scoring Egyptian win could be the best bet here.
Prediction: 1-0 Egypt (Sky Bet: 15/2) (Billy Cundall)
Best bet: Egypt to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 at 7/2
- Russia’s 5-0 win against Saudi Arabia was the second biggest ever by a host nation in their opening match at a World Cup tournament, after Italy vs USA in 1934 (7-1).
- Since the split up of the USSR, Russia have never reached the knockout stages of the World Cup in three appearances (1994, 2002, 2014). They have finished third in their group in each of those three editions.
- Russia (5) have already scored more goals in this tournament than they did in both 2014 (2) and 2002 (4), their last two appearances at the World Cup
- No African team has played as many World Cup games without winning a single one than Egypt (D2 L3).
- Egypt have failed to score in each of their last three World Cup matches, last finding the net in the competition against Netherlands on 12/06/1990.
- Mohamed Elneny completed 44 passes versus Uruguay on matchday one, the most by an Egyptian player in a World Cup game since 1966.
- Russia’s Aleksandr Golovin has already been involved in three goals in this World Cup (1 goal, 2 assists). Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the only player to have been involved in more goals for Russia in a single tournament was Oleg Salenko in 1994 (6 goals, 1 assist).