Colombia vs Japan – Tuesday, June 19, 13:00BST/14:00CEST/15:00 MSK – Mordovia-Arena, Saransk, Russia
Four years ago Colombia were everyone’s darling. Los Cafeteros played dazzling football and were only narrowly defeated by Brazil at the quarter-final stage.
This time around Colombia are often mentioned as one of the sides that could surprise at this year’s tournament. Perhaps the main question is, how much of that Colombia shine is based on the success Colombia achieved four years ago? On a first glance, Colombia appears to have struggled at the qualification – winning seven, losing six and drawing five – stage but in truth managed to qualify with two matches to go.
Furthermore, Colombia have the advantage of being coached by one of the most tactically astute coaches in world football in the form of José Pekerman. The Argentine is considered one of the greatest intellectuals in the game, and under him, Los Cafeteros have returned to the form they were in in the 1990s when they were often considered among the World Cup favourites.
Facing Colombia are the Blue Samurai from Japan. Japan will be taking part in their sixth World Cup in a row. In fact, the Blue Samurai have qualified for every tournament since taking part for the first time in 1998.
But while Japan have been a constant presence the country has also struggled to go deep at a tournament. Only twice, in 2002 and in 2010, did Japan manage to emerge from the group stage and on both occasions, the side was eliminated in the round of 16.
This time around Japan, however, are in a very balanced Group H, which also includes Poland and Senegal. Any of those four nations are strong enough to advance with Poland and Colombia slightly ahead of Japan and Senegal. Hence, Japan will have to hit the ground running should they want to qualify from this group. At the same time, Colombia will be slight favourites to take all three points in what could be an exciting game between two evenly matched sides.
Colombia vs Japan – Players to look out for:
James Rodríguez #10 – Colombia (Bayern München)
James Rodríguez won the Golden Boot four years ago and was awarded a move to Real Madrid. It was a transfer that ultimately did not work out for the Colombian midfielder, however. Struggling to find a role in Madrid James was send to Bayern on a loan-to-buy deal. The result has been remarkable. James has been stellar for Bayern throughout 2017/18 and won the Gegenpressing player of the season award.
Shinji Kagawa #7 – Japan (Borussia Dortmund)
Shinji Kagawa is another Bundesliga star at this summer’s World Cup. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder, however, has struggled with fitness this season and missed 15 out of 34 possible Bundesliga games. In those 19 games, he has been relative prolific, however, scoring five goals and three assists showing that he is a key player for Dortmund when fit.
Colombia vs Japan – Match Stats
- In three games Colombia are undefeated against Japan (W2 D1).
- The last match between the two sides took place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup – Colombia won the match 4-1 eliminating Japan in the process.
- In 2014 Colombia won four matches. In the previous four World Cups Colombia managed just three victories in 13 matches. None of Colombia’s 18 matches at a World Cup ended in a 0-0 draw.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Colombia vs Japan – 2-1
Colombia vs Japan – Lineups
Ospina – Fabra, Mina, Davinson Sánchez, Arias – Carlós Sánchez – James, Uribe, Lerma, Cuardrado – Falcao
Head Coach: José Pekerman
Kawashima – Sakai, Ueda, Shoji, Endo – Yamaguchi, Shibasaki – Inui, Kagawa, Muto – Okazaki
Head Coach: Akira Nishino
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.