After Senegal’s impressive 2-1 victory over Poland in their opening game, they will be looking to replicate that performance to effectively propel them to the next round if results favour them. The Lions of Teranga will face the Blue Samurai’s of Japan in a crucial group H tie. Japan also grabbed a crucial 2-1 victory over group favourites Colombia in their opening fixture.
Sadio Mané will be looking kick-start his tournament for Senegal with goals against a very organised and technical Japanese side. The group is the most balanced of the other groups in the World Cup and I expect it will be a show of very entertaining football. However, Senegal’s defending on set-piece must improve and they would have to pay close attention to Japanese striker Yuya Osako, who is a threat in the box and Kalidou Koulibaly and Salif Sane at the back will have to be on their toes.
I believe Senegal have enough in their tank to see off Japan and I predict another 2-1 scoreline. The Senegalese are athletic, fast and considerably skillful to create chances on the break for themselves – so far they stay disciplined.
- Senegal are unbeaten in their three previous games with Japan, all of which were friendlies.
- The Senegalese have won the last two encounters, keeping clean sheets in both games (2-0 in 2001 and 1-0 in 2003).
- Victory would see Japan become the first Asian side to win their opening two games at a World Cup.
- The only previous occasion Japan have won consecutive games at a World Cup came at the 2002 tournament, which they co-hosted.
- On that occasion, they beat Russia and Tunisia in their second and third group games.
- Japan have won two of their three World Cup games against African opponents, although they lost the most recent encounter, a 2-1 defeat by Ivory Coast in 2014.
- The Japanese played 377 passes in the second half against Colombia, compared to just 218 in the first half (despite their opponents playing virtually the entire game with 10 men).
- Keisuke Honda has been directly involved in six of Japan’s last eight World Cup goals, scoring three and assisting three.
- Honda has not scored in his last 15 international games, a run stretching back to September 2016.
- Senegal have the best win rate of any African side to have played at a World Cup, winning three of their six matches (50%).
- Only two African nations have won their opening two World Cup matches – Cameroon in 1990 and Nigeria in 1998.
- This will be the first time Senegal will face Asian opponents in a World Cup game.
- They have conceded five times in their last nine games in all competitions, with just one of those goals coming in the first half.