World Cup Group C | Cuiaba | Tue 24 Jun | 9pm
Crunch time for Samurai Blue against confident group leaders.
It’s not looking good for Japan. They’ve never scored against Colombia, and never beaten South American opposition at the World Cup, something they’ll need to change if they’re to avoid falling at the first hurdle. They’re also living up to their reputation as one of the best passing teams at the tournament but also one of the most toothless when it comes to scoring against top-level opposition.
There is hope, however. Colombia will top Group C unless there is a four-goal swing between them and Ivory Coast, so may take their foot off the gas, whether subconsciously in terms of performance or consciously by resting players, such as 38-year-old captain Mario Yepes, who suffered a knock against the Ivorians. Then again, with the runners-up of Group D lying in wait, maintaining momentum could be just as important as avoiding injury, suspension and fatigue.
Japan were too slow in possession against Greece, according to coach Alberto Zaccheroni, whose main selection issue is whether to recall playmaker Shinji Kagawa, who was benched in favour of an extra striker last time out, an experiment that didn’t work.
What the local media say
“Colombia has never won a World Cup!” screamed the headline in Today Colombia this week, after victories against Greece and Ivory Coast. “This could be the year!” No pressure, lads.
Key battle: Makoto Hasebe vs James Rodriguez
Despite being replaced by the more attack-minded Yasuhito Endo at half-time against Greece, Hasebe will be needed for his defensive skills against Colombia’s playmaker, not least because of Rodriguez’s ability to deliver and get on the end of dead-balls, something Japan should be wary of given their relative aerial weakness. As you can see from the graphic, both player patrol similar areas of the field. Makoto rarely gives away possession, something he’ll need to keep up against J-Rod, who will pop up everywhere in the final third, looking to create or score himself.
Facts and figures
- Japan are winless against South American opposition at the World Cup (D1 L2).
- Japan have never scored against Colombia across those 2 previous fixtures.
- Juan Cuadrado (3) has now provided more assists at a single World Cup since 1966 than any other Colombian player.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
The force is with the South Americans. 1-2.