We’ve waited a long time for Group H to come around. Nearly a week! But we’ve waited even longer to see Radamel Falcao at a World Cup. The Monaco man was injured when Colombia made it to the quarter-finals last time round, forced to sit and watch James Rodriguez steal the show in Brazil. But now he’s back! Can he dovetail with Rodriguez and set his country off on another World Cup adventure? We’re about to find out … if Rodriguez passes a late fitness test, that is.
The Colombians are favourites for this one. Their form hasn’t been particularly special – a win in France, but then two goalless draws against Australia and Egypt – though it’s been better than Japan’s. The Samurai Blue recently beat Paraguay, it’s true, but that result merely put an end to a run of three defeats on the spin, against Ukraine, Ghana and Switzerland. Colombia also have the sign over their opponents: they’re unbeaten in their previous three matches against Japan, the most recent being a 4-1 whipping at the last World Cup.
Here’s to a good game, anyway. Colombia usually entertain at World Cups, Japan are better when they go forward, and none of Colombia’s 18 matches at the World Cup have ended 0-0. Fingers crossed that run continues. It’s on!
Pre-match playtime. It’s the pub argument we’re all having: who would you select in your all-time Japan team? Our snazzy tool can help you decide, once and for all! I’m afraid there isn’t a similar gizmo for Colombia, but I don’t make the rules, and in any case we all dream of a team of 11 René Higuitas, so we’d be wasting our time anyway.
The unique thing about Group H is that it has four teams representing four different continents, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Each team is has their flaws but there are no clear favourites which makes Group H the most open in the competition
Colombia and Japan will play the first game of Group H at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk. The 2018 World Cup (WC) will probably be the last competition for coach José Pékerman (Colombia), who will be aiming to leave the South American side with a WC to remember after six years of service.
live STREAMING HERE :
COLUMBIA VS JAPAN :
Pékerman’s men had a great performance four years ago in the WC in Brazil, reaching the quarter finals. It will be Pékerman’s third WC. His manager record so far in previous WC editions (Germany 2006 and Brazil 2014) is W7, D2, L1, with his sides scoring 18 goals and conceding ten.
Japan are not in good form, and it is yet to be seen whether the decision to change head coach just two months before the WC kickoff will work out. The ‘Samurai’ managed to beat Paraguay 4-2 in the last friendly – a timely morale-booster that ended a winless streak of five games.
The two sides met in the last World Cup in Brazil, with Colombia comfortably winning 4-1 in the group stage. Before that game, there’s record of three more clashes with two draws an another win for the South-Americans.
Players to watch: The Colombians remain reliant on James Rodríguez, but he is a born winner, and comes into the tournament as the reining top scorer, so he can certainly handle all the pressure.
Shinji Kagawa is the main hope for the Japanese. The Dortmund player has always been a vital link between midfield and attack, forming a good relationship with Real Betis’ Inui.
Stat attack: Japan scored more goals (four) in the last game than in their last five matches combined.
Although they are undefeated in the last four games (W2, D2), the last time Colombia lost was against an Asian side (South Korea).
Colombia’s two last friendly games ended 0-0.
Colombia: Ospina, Arias, Davinson Sanchez, Murillo, Mojica, Cuadrado, Carlos Sanchez, Lerma, Izquierdo, Quintero, Falcao.
Subs: Vargas, Cuadrado, Zapata, Barrios, Bacca, Aguilar, Rodriguez, Mina, Muriel, Uribe, Diaz, Borja.
Japan: Kawashima, Hiroki Sakai, Yoshida, Shoji, Nagatomo, Haraguchi, Hasebe, Shibasaki, Inui, Kagawa, Osako.
Subs: Higashiguchi, Nakamura, Ueda, Honda, Endo, Okazaki, Usami, Muto, Yamaguchi, Oshima, Makino, Gotoku Sakai.
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).