World Cup 2018

Sadio & Senegal England’s Mané Group H threat

 • by Mark Thompson
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The Lightning Seeds have never had so many people across the nation singing one of their songs.

England have qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup, helped largely to set-piece routines so choreographed that Harry Kane and co will have no trouble when they make their inevitable appearances on Strictly Come Dancing in years to come.

Group H is set up in such a way that anything – apart from Poland qualifying – can happen. Japan and Senegal sit at the top of the group on four points, with Colombia just behind them on three.

The last round of matches sees Japan face the already eliminated Poles while Senegal and Colombia go head-to-head.

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Based on our persona model, the three teams in contention all profile very differently.

Japan, a more possession-orientated team, have averaged nearly 60 percent possession across their two matches, although this will have been slightly influenced by the third minute red card for Carlos Sanchez in their match.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of Senegal’s total pass attempts have been long balls – compared to just 9 percent and 8 percent for Colombia and Japan.

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Despite Colombia being down to ten men for almost their entire game against the Japanese, the three sides in Group H who can reach the knock-outs all have similar shot stats.

By Expected Goals, Senegal lead the pack with a difference of +0.2 per game, then Japan on +0.05, edging out Colombia on -0.08. They’re tight margins.

Just taking their match against Poland, Colombia use quick attacks and controlled possession, but also show a need for dogged defending that was – unsurprisingly – present in their opening game as well.

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Japan can probably be discounted from the running as ‘team England should fear facing the most’. While they did enough to deserve to win against Colombia, they didn’t dominate and make the game their own against a ten-man side like they could have done.

Their goalkeeper, Eiji Kawashima, has also looked suspect across both matches and with England’s set-piece designs that sees several players all lurking around the goal ready for a rebound, they could get tap-ins galore.

Where are England most vulnerable?

In a lot of ways, it’s hard to tell what kind of side would pose the most threat against England.

Qualifying for Russia was relatively easy, and happened under a different formation as well; Gareth Southgate’s side performed well during international friendlies, many of whom were against elite nations, or were played while finalising the new system; and neither Group G opponent so far offered much of a threat going forwards.

There’s some suggestion that England might be vulnerable on the break if their counter-pressing fails (although that’s been quite good so far).

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If that’s the case then it would be Senegal, with Sadio Mané and co, posing more danger.

With attacking talent able to burst up the pitch on the end of long balls and the nous to put together killer counters, they could take advantage of the space between England’s attacking midfield and their back-line.

Southgate’s centre-backs drop off to absorb pressure, but with the number of penalties there have already been in this World Cup, it wouldn’t be a surprise if another came from a slightly mistimed challenge in the face of an onrushing Senegalese attack.

Aliou Cissé’s side are also the one to concede the fewest chances in Group H, both in terms of shots and Expected Goals. The disciplined defensive unit could be a tough nut to crack for England, who have predominantly created their chances from open play.

James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero are not exactly a prospect to be wished for, but Senegal are the team England will most want to avoid.

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