Japan and Colombia face off today at 4pm ET/1pm PT with both teams in need of points for very different reasons. Los Cafeteros only need one point to be sure of top spot, while the Blue Samurai desperately need their first victory of the campaign and hope Greece do them a favor versus Cote D’ Ivoire.
Colombia’s astute coach Jose Pekerman has the luxury of resting some players. Likely to drop out are flying winger Juan Cuadrado, Carlos Sanchez and skipper Mario Yepes. Freddy Guarin, an excellent player on his day, should see game time, along with Alexander Mejia who came on in the last game. Teofilo Gutierrez could miss out also, with Pekerman possessing an embarrassment of riches up front. Jackson Martinez, top scorer in Portugal for FC Porto with 29 goals (ironically as a replacement for Falcao), has seen less than 15 minutes of action. Adrian Ramos, who Dortmund have signed as well as Italy’s Ciro Immobile to replace the non-World Cup based Robert Lewandowski, has not played yet. Carlos Bacca, who plundered 21 goals for Europa League winners Sevilla has also not seen a minutes action due to injury. Juan Fernando Quintero, who plays for Porto behind Martinez in midfield and scored versus Cote D’ Ivoire, could see some action if James Rodriguez gets rested.
Japan come into the game with no injury or suspension worries. That is about the only good news they have had so far though. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni will be ruing the lost opportunities against Cote D’ Ivoire and Greece, having taken the lead against the former and played against 10 men in the latter. Shinji Kagawa, who had a torrid season at Man Utd but is a very capable player was benched against the Greeks. He should return against Colombia and Zaccheroni needs him to show something like the form he showed against Italy in the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year. Its all or nothing for Japan, and they will look to experienced campaigners such as Yasuhito Endo to guide them to victory. Keisuke Honda, on whom so much depends, will look to make his mark. Asia may have no representative in the next round if Japan, who are Asia’s best side, fail and Cote D’ Ivoire win. They simply must move the ball quicker and shoot on sight.
Japan have never beaten Colombia before and struggle against South American opposition so it will take a monumental effort from the Blue Samurai to go through. Expect Colombia to pick them off – and win 1-0 or 2-1 with Jackson Martinez’s pace and power ensuring a difficult time for Japanese centre backs Konno and Yoshida.
Predicted lineup for Japan:
Predicted lineup for Colombia: