AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: Thursday’s World Cup games

Japan v Poland
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group Stage
15:00 BBC Two

‘The Samurai Blue’ are the surprise group leaders at this year’s World Cup so far. After beating Colombia in Matchday 1 and a hard fought draw against Senegal in Matchday 2, they now face World Rank #8 Poland. Even though the Poles are heading home regardless of the result in Volgograd on Thursday, they won’t want to go home winless or even pointless.

As long as Japan avoid defeat they will be progressing onto the Last 16 Stage, and a mouth-watering tie against Belgium or England awaits. Japan also boast a superb record against Poland, winning the both and only previous 2 encounters between the sides. But Poland will be out to preserve honour here, and with that maybe sparking some life from Adam Nawalka’s team, it could see Robert Lewandowski notch before he leaves. At 3/1 to score first, for a player of his quality, that appeals as most value.

With defending not either sides strong point, and an attack such as Poland’s, this could easily be a high scoring affair. Over 3.5 match goals at 5/2 is also very hard to look past.

In what should be an enjoyable last group game for the viewers, fan favourites Japan may just fall short here as eager England fans watch on to see who we will be facing in the next round.

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Senegal v Colombia
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group Stage
15:00 BBC One

Senegal have been one of the most entertaining sides at this World Cup and their matchup with Colombia in a straight shootout to qualify from Group H ought to provide plenty of thrills.

Senegal were outsiders against Poland to begin their tournament but despite the unlucky nature of their two goals, there were no doubting that they deserved their 2-1 victory over Poland to begin the tournament when many of their star players put in and impressive showing and they displated plenty of forward punch in a 2-2 draw with Japan.

Admittedly it was an awful mistake by Eiji Kawashima that gave Sadio Mane his first goal but M’Baye Niang was wonderful, holding the ball up, pulling into the channels and then producing a fine flick to assist Wague for his second goal. Islamlia Sarr was also a constant presence and Youssouf Sabaly showed why he plays for PSG too.

That said, Japan did pull them back twice and Colombia outplayed them for long spells of their 2-1 loss in the opening matches. A red card for Carlos Sanchez changed everything and saw them overworking thsmelves to pull level and try and win a game they could have taken a ppoint from.

Against Poland, however, they really kicked into gear. Juan Cuadrado, Juan Quintero and James Rodriguez, who started from kickoff and had a hand in all thee goals, were sensational as they put Poland to the sword 3-0 and suddenly looked like the team that reached the quarter finals four years ago.

Los Cafeteros do not play for draws whilst Japan will fancy their chances of beating Poland, so the onus is on both sides to go forward and they have the weapons to turn this game either way. Over 2.5 goals (evens with is the clear standout choice.

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England v Belgium
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group Stage
19:00 ITV

Oh, football. The great game has given England and Belgian management a true headache that could only happen in round robin tournaments; That of losing potentially working out better than winning.

The amount of unexpected results that have taken place so far have created – on paper – one of the most lobsided World Cup draws in the tournament’s recent history.

One side of the draw potentially has Russia, Denmark, Croatia, Mexico, Switzerland, Spain and Japan, Colombia and Senegal. The other could well have Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Uruguay, and France.

For either side the equation looks like this; Finish top of Group G and, should they see off one of Senegal, Japan, Poland or Colombia in the last 16, they can likely to face the winner of a blockbuster tie between Brazil and Germany, who are currently second in Group F, in the quarter-finals.

Finish second, however and assuming that in Group E and Group F and the standings stay as they are, England or Belgium would instead face the winner of a last-16 tie between Mexico and Switzerland in the last eight.

It’s important to remark that this all takes place on paper. Croatia looked like the best side at the tournament when smashing Argentina 3-0, and Mexico were frankly unlucky not to put more past a Germany side that was all at sea; Indeed Brazil have not looked as good as they did in qualifying and Germany needed a brilliant Toni Kroos strike to stay in the tournament on Saturday.

Neither England nor Belgium should fear any side they’ve seen on the basis of two very impressive wins in differing fashion, where Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku have scored nine between them. Roberto Martinez has promised to make plenty of changes whilst Gareth Southgate has said he wants to keep momentum, but the two squads do not lack for depth from the bench and this could quickly become quite open.

Both teams have had four games with over 2.5 goals (21/20 with and both teams scoring (17/20 with, and it’s not hard to imagine such a game especially if defences are unfamiliar with eachother whilst substitutes are eager to impress although this is not one for big stakes.

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Panama v Tunisia
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group Stage
19:00 ITV4

The bet here looks to be sell viewing figures with England v Belgium taking place simultaneously at 7pm.

Both sides are already eliminated so the match has more of a friendly feel about it and surely not a game to risk much in?

Panama have conceded the most goals in this tournament.

Their 3-0 loss to Belgium was followed by the heavy 6-1 defeat by England, there was a glimmer of good news for them though when Felipe Baloy made history by becoming the first Panamanian player to score at a finals.

Tunisia, ranked 21st in World Rankings take on 55th placed Panama and the leaky Panamanian defence should send them home with another defeat.

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BACK TUNISIA for 12 points at 5/6 with


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