Japan’s campaign to end in frustration.
Japan’s World Cup so far has been one of missed opportunities and they will be on their way home if they don’t beat Colombia, who have already qualified, in their final group game in steamy Cuiba.
Even then, they need Greece to do them a favour against the Ivory Coast and that must also be a long-shot.
Japan’s biggest problem is obvious. They don’t have a goalscorer and, for all their possession against 10-man Greece in their second game, rarely looked like breaking through – they’d also looked short of ideas when beaten by the Ivory Coast in their opener.
Blue Samurai coach Alberto Zaccheroni will have to come up with a different game plan if his team are to hang around in Brazil any longer. They don’t have a real physical presence in attack and Colombia are an athletic team who will fancy their chances of cutting down Japanese supply lines. Most things go through AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and he’ll be closely marked.
Colombia only need a point to ensure top spot in the section and, on paper, secure a better draw in the last 16. They’ll have a huge following again in Cuiba and confidence must be sky-high after scoring five goals in victories over Greece and the Ivory Coast.
Jose Pekerman’s squad have coped well with the pre-tournament loss of star striker Radamel Falcao but there are stiffer tasks ahead and he might be tempted to shuffle his pack as Colombia were starting to look a little ragged in the closing stages against the Ivory Coast and Japan will match them in the energy stakes.
Pekerman would be more than happy with a draw from their final group game and it’s unlikely that Japan will have the firepower to break them down. The stalemate is 12/5 and a 0-0 correct score can be backed at 8/1.
The match kicks off at 9pm UK time on Tuesday June 24th at the Arena Pantanal, Cuiba.