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World Cup Group H Preview: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan

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Perhaps the most wide-open group in the entire tournament, Group H is going to be oodles of fun. Of the four teams in the group, only Japan did not get at least one pick to top the group in PST’s writer predictions of the tournament results, and every team was picked to advance through to the knockout round at least once, with only Japan receiving less than two votes to advance.

Colombia: After a promising 3rd place finish in the 2016 Copa America, Colombia barely squeaked into the 2018 World Cup after struggling through a tough CONMEBOL qualification slate. After failing to win in any of its final four qualifying matches, Los Cafeteros have had a weird run-up to the tournament, beating France before a pair of 0-0 draws against Australia and Egypt. Nobody really knows what to expect from Colombia in Russia. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

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Senegal: Sadio Mane is a chic pick as one of the top players to watch in the 2018 World Cup, and Senegal has a surprisingly strong young team. The problem is the attacking support behind Mane, and when teams focus on the Liverpool star, they struggle to produce much else. Still, Senegal got a generous group draw without a clear frontrunner, and that could see them into the knockout round. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

Japan: The Samurai Blue is a true dark horse of this tournament, but their strong attacking group will work against them. They have decent star power in Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki, and former AC Milan attacker Keiuske Honda, but the defense is unbelievably suspect. During the run-up to the World Cup, Japan coughed up six goals in three June matches against Ghana, Switzerland, and Paraguay. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

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Who’s going through: Poland and Colombia

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Who’s going home: Senegal and Japan

Marquee match: Colombia vs. Senegal, June 28 in Volgograd

Top 5 players to watch
1) James Rodriguez — Colombia
2) Robert Lewandowski — Poland
3) Sadio Mane — Senegal
4) Shinji Okazaki — Japan
5) Kalidou Koulibaly — Senegal

2018 World Cup team preview: Japan

AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama
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Getting to know Japan: It’s a sixth-straight appearance for Japan, who has either been terrible or inspiring every other tournament.

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Thrice winless and twice Round of 16 combatants, the Samurai Blue are sound but need to find goals if they want to return to the knockout rounds.

For more history on Japan, click here.

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What group are they in? Group H. Japan is probably the underdog of the bunch, with Poland, Colombia, and Senegal all capable of claiming top honors

Game schedule – Group H – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Tuesday, June 19: Colombia v Japan, Saransk 8 a.m. ET
Sunday, June 24: Japan v Senegal, Yekaterinburg 11 a.m. ET
Thursday, June 28: Japan v Poland, Volgograd 10 a.m. ET


Projected lineup (4-3-3) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Kawashima —–

— Sakai — Yoshida — Shoji — Nagatomi

—- Haraguchi —- Hasebe —- Yamaguchi —-

—- Honda —- Osako —- Usami —-


Star player: Maya Yoshida — The Southampton center back underwent a tumultuous season at St. Mary’s, but is one of several experienced Japanese backs in the fold for Russia.


Manager: Akira Nishino – Twelve times capped by Japan, the 63-year-old former Vissel Kobe and Nagoya Grampus Eight boss gets his first chance to shine at a World Cup.


Secret weapon: Shinji Okazaki — It may seem goofy to label a Premier League striker with 50 international goals as Japan’s secret weapon, but Leicester City’s bench spark plug has a similar role at this stage of his career for the Samurai Blue. He’s the third all-time goal scorer in Japanese history, though goals have been few and far between for Okazaki since 2016.


Prediction: Fourth in a very good group.

Leicester City 1-2 Newcastle United: Magpies nearly safe

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  • Newcastle moves into top half
  • Shelvey dummies to open scoring
  • Perez with goal, assist

Jonjo Shelvey and Ayoze Perez scored on either side of halftime to give Newcastle United another three points with a 2-1 win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

Jamie Vardy scored late for Leicester, who remains eighth with 43 points.

The Magpies are 10th, ahead of Bournemouth on goal differential and 10 points clear of the drop zone.

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The visitors looked good from the start, with Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel needed to stop Ayoze Perez and Dwight Gayle in the first 10 minutes.

The Magpies went ahead through Shelvey, who took a pass from Perez and cooked Harry Maguire en route to the right corner of the goal (with a small turn off a Leicester defender’s arm).

Maguire hit Gayle in the face moments later, but was saved with only a yellow card.

Leicester had a shout for a penalty when Paul Dummett‘s sliding tackle of Riyad Mahrez in the box caused the Algerian to hit the deck, but no whistle arrived for the Foxes.

DeAndre Yedlin was injured making a 72nd minute tackle on Fousseni Diabate.

Perez made it 2-0 with a classy and audacious finish, with Maguire and Wes Morgan allowing Florian Lejeune‘s clearance to hit the turf, and Perez chipping Schmeichel from 30 yards with the outside of his boot. Gorgeous stuff.

Vardy tapped in a Shinji Okazaki knockdown of a delightful Demarai Gray cross with seven minutes to play to make it game on at the King Power.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

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Leicester 1-2 Chelsea: Blues battle to victory

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  • Morata scores first goal of 2018
  • Vardy nets, score 17th of season
  • Pedro scores in extra time

Chelsea beat Leicester City 2-1 after extra time to seal their spot in the FA Cup semifinal.

Alvaro Morata gave Antonio Conte’s men the lead, but Jamie Vardy equalized to take it to extra time.

Pedro then struck to send Chelsea into the semifinal for the second-straight season.

Leicester started well and went close when Marc Albrighton‘s effort from the edge of the box squirmed just wide.

However the longer the first half well, the more dangerous Chelsea looked.

The West London club threatened on the break through Morata with Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses having plenty of space out wide.

Morata then made the breakthrough right on half time as Willian nicked the ball, surged forward and released the Spaniard who finished calmly for his first goal in 2018.

After the break Leicester finally came to life as Wilfred Ndidi picked out Vardy with a wonderful pass but the Leicester forward looped his header over the bar.

Albrighton whipped in plenty of inviting crosses as Leicester pushed hard for an equalizerand eventually broke through.

Vicente Iborra got on the end of Riyad Mahrez‘s cross and he was denied twice by heroic blocks but Vardy was on hand to tap home. Game on.

Substitute Shinji Okazaki almost got on the end of a cross soon after and at the other end Morata hit the post with an acrobatic finish… but he was in an offside position.

Morata was then denied twice by Kasper Schmeichel at the end of normal time as the game went to extra time.

Pedro was the hero for Chelsea as he headed home the winner in extra time to send Chelsea to Wembley.

West Brom 1-4 Leicester City: Foxes demolish Baggies

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  • Vardy has scored on all four of his PL visits to West Brom
  • West Brom have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team this season 
  • Baggies have been in PL for seven seasons

Leicester City beat West Bromwich Albion 4-1 at the Hawthorns on Saturday to hammer in one of the final nails in West Brom’s Premier League coffin as they remain eight points off safety with eight games to go.

Bottom club West Brom went ahead through Salomon Rondon to give them hope of sparking a miraculous bid against relegation, but Leicester fought back with four unanswered goals.

Riyad Mahrez set up Jamie Vardy for the equalizer, then substitute Kelechi Iheanacho set up Mahrez to make it 2-1 moments after coming on. Soon after Iheanacho made it 3-1, then Vicente Iborra got in on the act to wrap up the win.

With the win Leicester remain in eighth and are in a legitimate battle to finish sixth with Burnley and Arsenal, while West Brom remain bottom after their sixth defeat on the spin and they still have to play Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham in their final eight games of the season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

An entertaining first half played out at the Hawthorns as West Brom took the lead to give themselves renewed hope they would stay in the PL.

Oliver Burke‘s cross was flicked home by Rondon as the Venezuelan proved there is still plenty of fight left in Pardew’s side as they also hit the woodwork through Krychowiak.

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Yet Leicester came roaring back as Vardy pulled out another special goal with an assist from Mahrez with the star duo combining once again.

The English striker hooked home a fantastic volley to keep up his fine form at West Brom in the PL and get the Foxes back on level terms at half time.

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In the second half Leicester brought on Kelechi Iheanacho for Shinji Okazaki to try and unsettle the West Brom defense and he did just that.

The Nigerian found Mahrez over the top and the Algerian lobbed Ben Foster to put the Foxes 2-1 up.

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Iheanacho then got in on the act himself to make it 3-1 with a header and in stoppage time Iborra added another with a header from a corner to rub further salt into West Brom’s festering wounds.

Surely this is the end for Pardew and for the Baggies.