The 2018 FIFA World Cup will complete the opening match of the group stages on Tuesday as Group H completes and host nation Russia plays their second match, facing Egypt in St. Petersburg. Our panelists offer up their previews and predictions.
Colombia vs Japan (Tuesday in Saransk)
Steen Kirby: Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado will line up against a Japan side that is lacking in talent compared to their previous World Cups. Much is expected of Colombia as they look to stamp their claim on this group, while Japan will be hoping to over perform low expectations this time out. Japan should play some quality defense but I don’t see them scoring and that will cost them a point. Colombia 1-0
Matt Pollard: James Rodriguez. What more do I need to say? 2-0 Colombia
Lukas Weese: The first of two Group H matches on Tuesday, Colombia is on a mission to try and have a better result than their quarterfinal appearance at the 2014 World Cup. James Rodriguez, the Golden Boot winner in the 2014 World Cup, will be the offensive weapon that needs the most attention from Japan. The Japanese have a whole new personnel playing and coaching, they will be relying on Shinji Kagawa for anchoring the offence to create scoring chances. I just think Colombia is too experienced for Japan…they take this one. 2-1 Colombia.
Poland vs Senegal (Tuesday in Moscow)
Steen: Two attacking teams with questionable defenses. Poland looks the continue the strong start for European teams this World Cup, while Senegal looks to be the team that carries the hopes of Africa this time around with Sadio Mane leading the charge. Expect both teams to score and I’ll back a draw in this one given the circumstances. 2-2 draw
Matt: A veteran European team with an attacking star and an experienced but old and slow back line? A fast plucky African side in one of their first (second) World Cup ever hoping to punch above their weight? What more could you want? Look for Senegal to counter and go at the back line. Expect some magic from Robert Lewandowski in possibly his last World Cup for Poland. I’m going chalk. 1-0 Poland
Lukas: Poland comes into this World Cup after a quarterfinal appearance at the 2016 Euro Cup. Striker Robert Lewondowski had more goals in World Cup qualifying than Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. While Senegal will rely on Sadio Mane for being their main offensive threat, Poland is too deep at all positions and will wear down Senegal as the game progresses. 2-0 Poland
Russia vs Egypt (Tuesday in St. Petersburg)
Steen: Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev clearly emerged as the leaders for team Russia and the weight will be on their shoulders in game 2 against Egypt. Mo Salah did not play for the Pharoahs in their opening game, a game that narrowly ended in a defeat. Despite hanging with Uruguay, Egypt sits at 0 points while Russia is at 3 with a +5 goal differential, making this game a near must win for Egypt. They have to hope that resting Salah was the right call, but regardless I don’t see it being enough. Russia should dictate play and ensure passage into the knockout rounds with another win. Russia 2-1
Matt: This game hinges on Mohammad Salah’s availability. He was supposed to come off the bench against Uruguay but didn’t and Egypt ended up losing at the death. Russia have confidence now with a win and a +5 goal differential, but Salah would hands down be the best player on the field in this game even if not fully healthy. A draw probably does them good in this game. I think Salah starts and he’s the difference. 2-1 Egypt
Lukas: The Russians opened this World Cup competition with five goals. If they win or draw this match, they advance to the final 16. But Egypt will have something to prove after their heartbreaking opening match to Uruguay. Mohammed Salah is expected to suit up for this fixture, which will be key for Egypt. Expect the Egyptians to control the possession early and score a 2nd half goal to beat the Russians. 1-0 Egypt.