Senegal’s Spine Should Give Them The Edge Over Japan

Jun 23, 2018 6:41 PM EDT

Senegal vs. Japan, 11 a.m. ET, Fox

  • Senegal +128
  • Japan +246
  • Draw +220

Bet to Watch:

Senegal +128 (Bookmaker)

You may not have had Japan vs. Senegal circled on your “must-watch” list heading into the World Cup, but it became one of the most intriguing matches of Round 1 after both sides pulled upsets in their opening match.

Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland and Japan’s win over Colombia by the same score threw Group H into chaos, and these two teams now have the opportunity to grab the group by the scruff of its neck heading into the final round of matches.

Senegal’s strength is down the middle, but their ability to play down the flanks against Poland was very impressive. So was the way the Lions of Teranga got back on defense to snuff out Poland’s attempts to counter. Sure, they scored a pair of fluky goals, but Senegal generated more chances and deserved the win, as their 1.5-0.7 edge in expected goals confirms.

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Japan also had the better of play in their win over Colombia, but Samurai Blue were helped out by a third-minute red card to Carlos Sanchez and the penalty-kick goal that followed. Additionally, Japan didn’t face a full-strength Colombia side as James Rodriguez sat out the first 60 minutes with an injury.

The odds suggest that the most likely outcome is a Senegal win. At +128, the market is suggesting the Lions of Teranga have ~43.9% chance of winning. I actually think that is underselling the African side. Not only does Senegal have Sadio Mane, who didn’t really have much of an impact in their win over Poland, but the rest of the core is much stronger than Japan’s. Kalidou Koulibaly is fast becoming one of the world’s best centerbacks, and Idrissa Gana Gueye and Alfred N’Diaye make life very difficult for opponents in the middle of the field.

I expect a better performance from Mane, but even if he is shut down, Senegal’s other scoring threats, M’Baye Niang and Ismaila Sarr, will pick up the slack. I think there’s good value on Senegal at this number.

Follow Michael J. Leboff on Twitter
@TheBigLeebowski

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