No option for Japan but to attack Colombia
Hot conditions likely to suit South American side used to playing qualifiers in steamy local
Cristian Zapata (right) of Colombia has settled into a sound defensive partnership with captain Mario Yepes. Photograph: EPA
The sun could rise again for Japan at the World Cup if they upset Colombia at the Pantanal arena today although they will also need the result of the other match on the last day of Group C to go their way.
Colombia have already qualified for the round of 16 with six points after stringing together two wins for the first time in five visits to the finals.
They will be joined in the next round by Ivory Coast, who have three points, if the African nation defeat Greece in other Group C match in Fortaleza.
Japan, who have just one point, can expect to find the going tough in the hot conditions in Cuiaba which will better suit the Colombians, used to playing their home games in the qualifiers at steamy Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast.
They also face a side that iconic 1990s playmaker Carlos “Pibe” Valderrama said had recovered his country’s footballing identity under the guidance of coach Jose Pekerman.
Cristian Zapata, who has fitted into a good central defensive partnership with captain Mario Yepes after Luis Perea failed to make it to Brazil due to injury, said that despite having qualified Colombia were not even thinking about the second round.
“From the start we’ve gone match by match,” said Zapata.
Pekerman’s team, like that captained by Valderrama at three finals in the 1990s, espouse a fast paced counter-attacking game with overlapping full backs, an incisive playmaker in James Rodriguez and the scoring instincts of “Teo” Gutierrez.
They have notched five goals, two by Rodriguez, but midfielder Carlos Sanchez is carrying a yellow card as is Japan’s Makoto Hasebe.
Japan have no option but to attack but the team have failed to click in Brazil after a promising start against the Ivorians when Keisuke Honda scored their only goal so far before losing 2-1.