Fifa World Cup 2018- Groups F, G & H
With former champions Germany and England together with another strong European country, Belgium placed in Groups F and G, it could be easily predicted that they will not have much difficulty in advancing to the last 16. While we examine these groups in detail, which team will go through with Germany from Group F and who will be the qualifiers from Group H still remain close calls.
Four-time title winners and holders Germany, Sweden, Mexico and South Korea make up this group.Undoubtedly, Germany has a much more balanced side than any other in this group. The squad has a fantastic blend of experience and youth.
With players like Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller, who are veterans, are a young bunch of promising and vibrant players. Timo Warner, Leon Goretzka and Niklas Sule will have the opportunity to shine on a bigger stage. The key player will be Toni Kroos who will play an anchoring role in midfield.
Sweden is without Zlatan Ibrahimovich, had a fantastic run in the qualifying round in a group that featured France and the Netherlands. Sweden's key player will be attacking midfielder Emil Forsberg of LB Leipzig and he will be instrumental in making scoring chances for their main striker Marcus Berg.
A team with tournament experience and promise is Mexico. They qualified as the top team from the CONCACAF region and coach Juan Carlos Osoria has kept faith with a bunch of players like Hector Herrara, Giovani Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta who were in the 2012 gold medal winning team Olympic team.
South Korea is the other team in the group. They are weakest team in this group and are not expected to get past the group stage. Their key player is Son Heung-min who has made his mark in the English Premier League with Tottenham. Germany with the winner of Mexico-Sweden match should go through from this group and many are putting Mexico ahead.
Two European countries England and Belgium are joined by Tunisia and Panama in this group.Although England have fared quite well in the qualifying round, their performance at international tournaments leaves much to be desired.
Harry Kane as the leading goal scorer, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rushford and Dele Alli could provide headaches to opponents and should be able to advance to the knockout stage from this group.Belgium is a team that has some exceptionally talented players and how they gel as a team is to be seen.
Coach Roberto Martinez and his assistant, Thierry Henry, the legend from Arsenal, have the daunting task of getting the best out of their players. Undoubtedly, their star player is Kevin de Bruyne who will act as a catalyst for the strikers. Eden Hazard will add strength in midfield.
Playing in their fifth World Cup, Tunisia have a number of talented players like Wahbi Kazri and Aymen Abdennour besides 23-year old Ellyes Skhiri who will be their key player.
Panama has made history by qualifying to play in World Cup for the first time and they beat Costa Rica in the qualifiers. They will depend mainly on strikers Gabriel Torres and Luis Tejada.Barring any mishap, England and Belgium look certain to advance but the main question is which team will top the group.
The last group has Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan in its line up.Appearing in the World Cup for the first time since 2006, Poland keeps almost the same team that reached Euro 2016 quarter final. They have in Robert Lewandowski, a prolific goal scorer who will have an able partner in the team's attack in Jakub Blaszczykowski who could take their team into the knockout stage.
Colombia reached the last eight in 2014 and also has a talented player like James Rodriguez who now plays for Bayern Munich. Davinson Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Yerry Mina are other useful players that Colombia will rely on.
There are a bunch of talents in team from Senegal as well that makes this group so intriguing. They have Sadio Mane in attack and Kalidou Koulibaly in defence in their line up and will make all efforts to make a bold impression in Russia in their second appearance in World Cup.
Japan has a number of players with European experience. Two players who will pivotal roles are Shinji Okazaki who plays for Leicester and Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund. It is difficult to choose qualifiers from this group. One can only safely say that ant two from Poland, Colombia and Senegal are likely to get through.
The writer is a senior journalist,
political commentator and