The final set of FIFA World Cup 2014 group games is upon us—where on earth did the time go?
Here, we analyse Japan vs. Colombia: A game in which the latter has already qualified for the knockout stages and the former need to flip the form book to do so.
Japan have been bitterly disappointing so far, living up to their pre-tournament reputation in the worst way possible.
They are very happy on the ball at the back and occupying the middle third but ask them to fashion a goalscoring chance and they'll look at you stumped; clueless.
We haven't seen Yoichiro Kakitani kick a ball yet, while Shinji Okazaki and Yuya Osako have failed to impact in and around the box. Keisuke Honda has played 45 good minutes, and that was the first half of the first game.
"We haven't had enough speed in our play and it's as though the players have been playing with the brakes on," Alberto Zaccheroni told reporters (via STV.com). "The problem is probably mental."
With Colombia already through to the knockout stages, Jose Pekerman can tinker with his lineup and rest a few key players. Fitness is of utmost importance, but it's vital he doesn't mess with the Cafeteros' rhythm all the same.
Carlos Sanchez is a candidate to duck out of the squad, per B/R's Nick Dorrington, as he's on a yellow card and Pekerman does not want to lose him. Fredy Guarin will be the popular choice to replace, but it's far more likely Alexander Mejia comes in instead.
Juan Quintero could come in and start after a superb cameo against Ivory Coast and Jackson Martinez could get a long-awaited trial, too.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Offensive Nightmares
There are few worse tactical matchups for Japan than Colombia.
The Cafeteros have pace, skill, talent and power in abundance, and their defensive setup is one of the more underrated in the competition.
Japan have struggled massively to create space for themselves in attack and they won't find it any easier against Pekerman's men. Worse yet, Colombia are near-impossible to counterattack—and that's the only method in which the Samurai Blue have looked close to scoring of late.
Japan's pressing game has not been up to scratch, with some believing the sheer number of air-miles the team are clocking up to be a serious factor in their jadedness.
If they don't confront Colombia quickly whilst on the ball they'll be dead and buried within 15 minutes, as James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Teofilo Gutierrez have proven their side are the best of all when moving through quick transitions.
Within 10 seconds Colombia can go from box to box; if Japan let them do it, they're out.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.