Colombia vs Japan: 5 things to look forward to from Group H’s opening game

Confident Colombia will look for repeat of 2014 thrashing when they meet unsettled Japan in Saransk.


REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Japan’s heads may have dropped a little when they were drawn against Colombia in Group H of this summer’s World Cup.

The two sides met at the same stage four years ago, Los Cafeteros cruising to a 4-1 victory.

Japan left Brazil with just one point to their name while Colombia went all the way the quarter-finals, eventually finishing fifth.

As the teams square up again, what can we look forward to from Tuesday’s clash?

  1. 1 A final bow for Falcao?


    REUTERS/Alexey Nasyrov

    It has been a long road to redemption for Radamel Falcao who missed the tournament four years ago with an ACL injury.

    A doomed loan spell at Manchester United which saw him dumped in the reserves by Louis van Gaal was followed by an equally frustrating spell at Chelsea that was also hampered by injury.

    His return to Monaco also marked a return to form, and he arrives in Russia having scored 24 goals in all competitions for the French side this season.

    At international level, he has netted four times in seven appearances since the beginning of 2017.

    Now aged 32, this could be the last chance football fans get to watch Falcao in a World cup.

  2. 2 A repeat of four years ago?


    REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

    For the neutrals and Colombian fans watching, a repeat of the 4-1 scoreline from four years ago would be welcome. For the Japanese, not so.

    That match completed a hat-trick of group wins for the Jose Pekerman's men as they powered their way to the quarter-finals while Japan headed home as group losers.

    The teams have not met since then and their only previous competitive meeting came in the 2003 Confederations Cup which Colombia won 1-0 thanks to Giovanni Hernandez goal.

  3. 3 Golden boot winner in action


    REUTERS/Henry Romero

    James Rodriguez became a household name in Brazil four years ago after winning the golden boot scoring six goals in five games. His performances were instrumental in Colombia’s run to the quarter-finals and earned him a move to Real Madrid.

    Four years later, he is now a key figure at Bayern Munich and arrives in the peak of his career. The raw talent is still present but is now allied by the maturity and vision that comes from competing at the highest level week in, week out.

    Some of his best performances have come in a yellow shirt and football purists will look forward to seeing him in action.

  4. 4 Can Japan find order amongst the chaos?


    REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

    Japan didn’t leave it as late as Spain but they also removed their coach on the eve of a World cup.

    The atmosphere in the camp was never great under Vahid Halilhodžić with several players expressing their discontent at his approach during his three-year reign. 

    By April of this year, a new level of toxicity was reached and the Japanese FA acted, firing him two months before the start of the tournament. Halilhodžić responded by issuing a lawsuit against his former employers.

    New boss Akira Nishino got off to a shaky start, but after reinstating several players who had been frozen out under the previous coach, they ended their World Cup preparations with a 4-2 win over Paraguay.

  5. 5 The Bundesliga connection


    REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

    Fans of the Bundesliga love watching Japan. Over the last few years, the Blue Samurai have had a strong contingent of German-based players in their squad. And this year is no exception.

    Yoshinori Muto, Yuya Osaka, Makoto Hasebe, Takashi Usami, Shinji Kagawa, Genki Haraguchi, and Gotoku Sakai all ply their trade in Germany and several could be in line for a start in this game. 

    Of those, Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa is the best known and arrives in good form having scored one and assisted two in Japan’s final warm up game.

    What are you most looking forward to most in the clash between Colombia and Japan? Let us know in the comments below.

  1. Poll: Who will win the first game in Group H?

    1. Colombia
    2. Japan
    3. Draw
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Neil Morris

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