Tipped for greatness at the World Cup in Brazil before the big kick-off, Colombia have more than lived up to their billing with a solid group-stage campaign.
Having already qualified for the round of 16 thanks to victories over Greece and Ivory Coast, Colombia are now looking for three wins out of three to outline their credentials as potential World Cup victors come next month.
Standing in Colombia’s way of maintaining their 100 per cent start to the tournament is Japan, who have a mission of their own on their hands with knockout-stage progression still within the realms of possibility.
Venue: Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
Date: Tuesday, June 24
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
TV Info: BBC (TBC)/ESPN (U.S.)
Japan Needing Miracle to Qualify
Whatever happens in Cuiaba on Tuesday, Colombia will be through to the last 16 at the end of the match, but which team will join them is still very much up in the air.
If the Ivory Coast beat Greece in Group C’s other match, then the African nation will go through, but if they don’t, then Japan still have a chance.
A draw or a Greek victory would open the door for Japan to go through, but they’d need a hefty victory against the Colombians to do so.
However, as Colombia have proved in their opening matches, that’s no easy feat, and Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni said that his side need a drastic improvement on Tuesday to stand a chance—per FIFA.com:
"We're not satisfied with our performances so far. This team has given lots of joy and satisfaction in previous matches over the past four years so I'm hoping we can show that good part of our football against Colombia."
Colombia, though, have been showing the “good part” of their football throughout the tournament and have won worldwide plaudits for their style of play—including from Gary Lineker:
Colombia are a delight to watch.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 19, 2014
Their counter-attacking style combined with their impeccable fitness makes them a real force at the World Cup, and the fact that they’re accustomed to the humid climate helps, too.
Though the Colombians have stars all over the pitch, one man who has stood out is playmaker James Rodriguez. He has scored in both of the South Americans’ matches so far.
He demonstrates a, sort of, telepathy whenever he takes to the pitch, with his vision and awareness causing the Ivory Coast's and Greece’s defences endless problems.
The Monaco star also has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and has a superb, recent, international scoring record, per Opta Joe:
4 - James Rodriguez has scored in each of his last four appearances for #COL. Vital.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 19, 2014
Filling the void left by his domestic teammate Radamel Falcao for Colombia, Rodriguez says that he’s aware of the pressure on his shoulders but believes that his side can enjoy a fruitful campaign—per FIFA.com’s report:
“The responsibility weighs more on me, but I am not alone. I hope to have a good World Cup. Why can't we be the revelation of the tournament? I hope we will be.”
Not quite a revelation, yet, but Colombia have all the makings of a team that are destined to really make a mark in Brazil.
Though Japan will be hopeful of springing an upset and somehow finding a way through to the knockout stage, Colombia’s performances suggest that nothing but a routine victory will be on the way for Jose Pekerman’s side.
If that’s the case, they’ll head through Group C as champions and will face either Costa Rica, Italy or Uruguay in the last 16. Where, if they maintain their form, they’ll be booking a place in the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Japan 1-3 Colombia