Senegal vs Japan preview: All to play for in Group H

Senegal take on Japan on Sunday afternoon. Both have had great starts to their World Cup campaigns, but who will come out on top in this one?

Senegal vs Japan preview: All to play for in Group H
Japan vs Senegal Preview in for Saturday

Senegal and Japan are currently the only two sides with points in Group H.

There have been many an underdog in the first round of this tournament with Mexico defeating Germany, Switzerland holding Brazil to a draw and also Iceland running away with a superb point versus Argentina.

Senegal and Japan are no different.

An M'baye Niang goal separated his nation from Poland and likewise Yuya Osako's header was enough for the Japanese to clinch all three points versus Colombia.

Last time out - Senegal

Group H was always going to be tight but Poland were still the outright favourites for this match.

With stars such as Napoli duo Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zieliński, Łukasz Piszczek, Wojciech Szczęsny and sharp shooter Robert Lewandowski the Poles were tipped to advance out of this group.

However their World Cup chances have been put in jeopardy with a Grzegorz Krychowiak goal failing to cancel out Thiago Cionek's own goal and Niang's strike.

It was simply a case of Senegal being up for the game and Poland not. The whole team was full of energy and athleticism and this is what you can expect for the rest of the tournament.

Last time out - Japan

Japan performed one of the shocks of the tournament in their first group stage fixture.

Colombia who had been tipped as firm favourites to top the group struggled against Akira Nishino's side who displayed great determination.

Carlos Sanchez did pick up a red card early on in the game which meant that Japan were at a slight advantage but they still had to utilise this to earn all three points.

A Juan Fernando Quintero free-kick for Colombia sandwiched Shinji Kagawa's penalty and Osako's glanced header.

The Japanese defied all expectations and became the first Asian nation to beat a South African one in World Cup history.

Head-to-head facts

  • This will be the fourth meeting between Japan and Senegal, with the African side unbeaten in the previous three (W2 D1, all friendlies).

  • Japan have won two of their three World Cup games against African opponents, though they did lose the most recent one (1-2 vs Ivory Coast in 2014).

  • No Asian nation has ever won both of their opening two games at a World Cup tournament before.

  • Senegal have won three of their six World Cup matches. They’ve got the best win rate of any African nation to play in the competition (50%).

  • Keisuke Honda has been directly involved in six of Japan’s last eight goals scored at World Cup tournaments with three goals and three assists.

Possible line-ups

Senegal: N'Diaye, Wague, Sane, Koulibaly, Sabaly, Sarr, N'Diaye, Gueye, Niang, Mane, Diouf.

Japan: Kawashima, Sakai, Shoji, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Shibasaki, Hasebe, Haraguchi, Kagawa, Inui, Osako.

Star Men

Kagawa played a key role in the Blue Samurai's victory over Colombia, he won and scored the penalty that put his nation in the lead initially.

Borussia Dortmund's midfield maestro failed to showcase his skill set on the biggest stage in both the South African and Brazilian World Cups, but looks impressive so far this tournament playing with more freedom. 

Sadio Mane enjoyed an impressive season at Liverpool and most notably scored in the Champions League final.

He failed to register a goal or an assist versus Poland but will look to threaten a shaky Japanese back-line which lacks pace. Mane's sheer speed will need to be utilised to every extent by Senegal as this is where the game could be won or lost.

Kalidou Koulibaly is also a player to keep an eye on, his physical assurance at the back will make it difficult for Osako and co.