(Photo credit: Kenneth Yarham)
20:00 BST, 27th March, Craven Cottage (London, England)
Two teams heading to Russia will bring their preparations to Fulham as Colombia take on Australia.
The Socceroos will be desperate to make amends after their embarrassing loss to Norway whilst Colombia will attempt to build on an impressive win over France.
The tie will be a good test for Australia, especially as they share a group with France, the side that Colombia came from two goals behind to beat last week.
They also have Peru in their group, so playing against another South American side will be ideal preparation.
Last time out
Norway 4-1 Australia (International Friendly)
The Socceroos scored early on to give new coach Bert van Marwijk a glimmer of hope before utterly falling apart in a very poor second-half display, which Massimo Luongo claimed was due to the players taking the new boss’s order ‘too literally’ and trying too hard to impress him.
Jackson Irvine nodded Australia in front from a good corner in the 19th minute, but this would be all that the Aussies would have to be positive about. Some poor defending allowed Ola Kamara space in the box to score his first of the night from eight yards out.
The second half proved to be even worse as Norway took control of the game and blitzed the Australian defence. Tore Reginiussen scored early after the break from a free kick and once the Socceroos heads dropped, they weren’t coming back up.
Ola Kamara scored his second with a smart finish just before the hour mark and rounded off a great hat-trick in the final moments with a curling effort just inside the box to complete Australia’s misery.
Whilst this was a great performance for Norway, especially from Ola Kamara, it was utterly dire from Australia and shows that they have a lot of work to do before June.
France 2-3 Colombia (International Friendly)
France took an early two-goal lead in the tie in Paris, with Lucas Digne finding Olivier Giroud in the box with a bit of help from Colombia keeper David Ospina, who deflected the ball into the path of his former Arsenal team-mate, giving Giroud an easy finish inside the six-yard box.
France doubled their lead on 26 minutes Arsenal and Liverpool target Thomas Lemar drove the ball home from inside the box after Kylian Mbappe evaded defenders and put him through on goal.
Colombia were looking lost, but an impending French collapse gave them hope. Just two minutes after Lemar’s goal, Luis Muriel’s cross evaded everyone in the box and found the far corner to the Los Cafeteros hope.
James Rodriguez found Radamel Falcao on the hour mark and the captain made no mistake with a clinical finish to tie the game up.
Colombia completed a fantastic come back in the 85th minute when they were awarded a penalty after Samuel Umtiti brought down Jose Izquierdo in the box.
Juan Quintero made no mistake from the spot and slammed the ball into the bottom right corner, giving Hugo Lloris no chance and giving France their first defeat since June 2017.
Colombia will want to build on a very impressive victory over France, so probably won’t make too many changes to the team.
However, Juan Quintero will be pushing for a start after his late winner completed the Colombian come back.
Bert van Marwijk will have some tough choices to make ahead of this tie but he’ll more than likely keep a similar team as he bids to assert his authority and tactics on the Australians.
However, he may turn to the more experienced Tim Cahill in a bid to settle any nerves in the side.
Key battle: James Rodriguez (Colombia) vs Aaron Mooy (Australia)
Aaron Mooy has been extremely impressive this season for Huddersfield in the Premier League, but few times has he had to deal with an opposition as talented as James Rodriguez.
If he is somehow able to contain the Bayern Munich playmaker, then he will be stopping a massive attacking presence for Colombia and disrupt their impressive flow. However, should Rodriguez take control of the game and pocket Aaron Mooy, then it could be serious trouble for the Socceroos.
Rodriquez taking control of the tie in a similar way he did against France would mean a plethora of attacking chances for Colombia and you’d expect that a forward with the clinical ability of Radamel Falcao to finish one of the chances.
A return for Cahill?
The icon of Australian football Tim Cahill could make a return to the starting line-up in tonight’s clash. However, this may be more problematic for Bert van Marwijk then it may first appear.
Having been embarrassed in his first game in charge against Norway, immediately looking to senior players to help him out may be a sign of weakness. He’ll be keen to prove that he isn’t over-reliant on players that probably won’t be around much longer on the World Cup.
So, if Cahill does come in and changes the game for the better, van Marwijk may have some serious considerations about his attacking line up in the future.
This Colombian attack is one of the better and more balanced you’ll see in any team, with a perfect combination of pace and power. They should their harmonic grace in scoring three at the home of French football against a very good defence.
If France struggled to contain them, then Australia should be very worried indeed. There is no proof in that Australian back line that they will be able to contain this attack and, if they are in full flow, it could get very messy.
For as good as they are going forward, conceding two goals in 15 minutes to France showed their fragilities as a team. Their defence fell apart after conceding and against a better side the game could, and probably should, have been over by halftime.
Whilst Australia don’t have the attacking prowess that France can boast, Colombia will still be looking for a response in a defensive manner and show some resilience. Colombia have a World cup group consisting of Poland, Japan and Senegal, so have a resilient defence will be key in this group.
Prediction: Colombia 3-0 Australia
Colombia will have far too much attacking power for Australia in this one. Considering how badly the Aussies struggled against an attack of Norway’s ability, the prospect of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao should frighten them to their core.