Colombia v Japan – James Too Good For JapaneseStats
Colombia v Japan
Colombia face Japan on Tuesday night knowing a point will be enough to see the South Americans top the group and send the Japanese packing.
The Colombians reached the last 16 with a game to spare after collecting six points from six available in their first two group games. James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero got the goals for them in the second half against the Ivory Coast in their last game to give them a 100 percent record in Group C but they were made work all the way for the victory by the Ivorians, who took the game to their opponents in the latter stages after Gervinho got them back into the game with a fine solo goal. That 2-1 win came off the back of a 3-0 victory over Greece when they coasted to the points with a slick performance to put them in the driving seat for qualification thanks to goals Pablo Armero, Teofilo Gutierrez and Rodriguez – who has hit four goals in his last five international games. Colombia are unbeaten in nine now and have kept eight clean sheets in 14 games.
Japan have disappointed greatly at the tournament despite the fact it had all looked so rosy in the opening exchanges of their first game against the Ivory Coast, when they were 1-0 up thanks to a fine Keisuke Honda goal inside 20 minutes. They struggled to cope after the break though as Wilfried Bony and Gervinho turned the game around and earned the Ivorians a vital three points. A scoreless draw with Greece followed when the Japanese were hugely frustrated not to be able to break down a side reduced to ten-men before half-time. They still have hopes of reaching the knock-out phase of the competition but their fate is not in their own hands.
Forward Carlos Bacca is sidelined for Colombia with a thigh strain but they have an abundance of options in attacking positions still. Their Argentine boss Jose Pekerman has the option of changing his line-up significantly with their place in the latter stages assured but will probably not want to upset a side who had a great balance and fluidity in their team so far in the tournament.
Japan have no injury concerns but Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni seems likely to ring in the changes to a side who have sorely lacked end product and will hope to find some of the spark that saw them score 16 goals in five warm-up games leading up to the World Cup. Shinji Kagawa and Yoichiro Kakatani are just two of those expected to figure from the start in a must-win game.
These teams have clashed just twice in their history with only one goal scored in those games. That was scored by Colombia’s Geovany Hernandez in a Confederations Cup game back in 2003. Their scoreless draw came in a friendly four years later.
Colombia have been one of the more impressive sides so far in this World Cup, continuing where they left off after a strong qualifying campaign which saw them finish second behind Argentina with the best defensive record of any South American side.
Despite the fact they’ve already reached the second round they’ll want to keep up their fine form and I can see them getting a third straight win against a powderpuff Japanese team who are technically sound but lack the nous to grind out results.
Take Colombia to get the better of a low scoring affair at 11/8, with Rodriguez also worth a punt to continue his rich vein of goalscoring at 7/4 to net anytime.