As Colombia are set to take on Japan in the first game in Group H, we take a look at the sides to see if we can expect any revenge from Japan after the Colombians beat them 4-1 at this stage in the last World Cup thanks to a James Rodriguez masterclass.
Colombia v Japan
Location: Mordovia Arena (Saransk)
Date: Tuesday 19th June
Last Meeting: Colombia 4-1 Japan (World Cup 2014- Group C)
The Colombians will look to go further than they did at the 2014 World Cup. They were narrowly beaten in the quarter-finals by the hosts, Brazil. The Colombians took the final spot in the South American qualifiers. They finished fourth in their group, one point above Peru who had to succumb to a play-off. Their opponents for the first game in Russia are Japan, who, likewise, automatically qualified for the World Cup by topping their group, which included Australia and Saudi Arabia. Two strong teams from their respected continents, but just how will they fair when they come up against each other?
Manager: José Pékerman
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich): Rodriguez is undoubtedly Colombia’s most important player. He is given sole responsibility for being the creative spark in the team as they are predicted to go through Group H with ease. Scoring six goals and assisting five more for his country in the 2014 World Cup made him the star of the tournament in Brazil. He won the Golden Boot in 2014 and was ever so close to winning the Golden Ball award too. He will look to be the spearhead to Colombia’s success.
Radamel Falcao (Monaco): Not as valuable as James, but Falcao would like to make this tournament one to remember. Missing out on the 2014 World Cup was a huge blow for the 32-year-old, who sat in the dugouts with the players and staff for every game. He will be hopeful of adding to his 29 goals in 72 appearances for his country as he will be the most likely goal threat for the Colombians in what will be his last World Cup.
Style of Play
The way Pékerman likes to play means that the full-backs have a key role. They are the link between defence and attack as the Colombian boss likes his side to get the ball to the forward three as quick as possible. With the creativity of the team being solely down to James Rodriguez, the two deep-lying centre midfielders have the roles of covering the midfielder so he isn’t using any unnecessary energy. With Radamel Falcao back in the side after missing the 2014 World Cup due to injury, they will have a more lethal attacking threat as the Monaco man has been back to his best in recent seasons.
Team News: There are no fresh injury concerns for this Colombia side which are raring to go.
Predicted Line Up: Ospina, Arias, Davinson Sanchez, Mina, Fabra, Cuadrado, Carlos Sanchez, Rodriguez, Aguilar, Cardona, Falcao
Manager: Akira Nishino
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
Shinji Okazaki (Leicester): The third all-time leading scorer for Japan and the highest scorer in the squad for the tournament. Shinji Okazaki should be arriving in Russia brimming with confidence as their hard-working striker will look to add to his tally. Okazaki should expect to run the line for Nishino’s men. If he resembles the season he had for Leicester in their title-winning season of 2016 then the Japanese may have a chance of progressing from the group.
Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund): The creative spark of this Japanese team. Kagawa will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders if Japan are looking to progress as they will look to him to produce it. Scoring 30 goals in 92 appearances for his country is a great tally for a midfielder and he will be looking to unlock the Colombia defence and try to get a goal himself.
Style of Play
Nishino likes to utilise his experienced men who have featured in previous tournaments. Their group stage exit with a measly one point coming against Greece is definitely a platform for the Japanese to build from. They will look to be more structured at the back. They will be hard to break down with the experienced Maya Yoshida and Yuto Nagatomo, as the Japanese don’t want to suffer the four goals they conceded against the Colombians at this stage last time around.
Team News: There are no injury concerns for this Japanese side who are looking to surprise a few people.
Prediction Line Up: Kawashima, Sakai, Yoshida, Ueda, Nagatomo, Hasebe, Shibasaki, Honda, Kagawa, Inui, Okazaki