Colombia marched into the last 16 and the result sent the winless Japan home after finishing bottom of their group, a record they are desperate to improve on despite the last-minute change of head coach.
With Radamel Falcao finally healthy enough to play in his first World Cup, Colombia is trying to get accustomed to handling higher expectations.
“Usually the first match is hard for every team and Colombia should be no exception”, Japan defender Maya Yoshida said. The 26-year-old Bayern Munich attacking midfielder is key to Colombia’s chances of repeating their run to the quarter-finals four years ago.
In a last throw of the dice, Pekerman introduced James Rodriguez, who did not start due to a calf problem, in the 59th minute but the Golden Boot victor in Brazil was unable to change the course of the match.
Bookmakers believe Colombians are the clear favorites. Germany enters the tournament as the defending champion after winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
It was Osako’s eighth global goal, and it gave Japan their best possible start to the 2018 World Cup.
“We need to think first about Japan and then about what happens later”. Japan has not won against Colombia in their previous three encounters and that included 1-4 drubbing in the group stage of the last World Cup. “These youngsters boast greater confidence”, Kawashima said. “They’ve got a scorer [Radamel Falcao], they’ve got a passer [James Rodriguez]”. “We will have to try to close him down as a team”.
“We’ve been suffering for the past four years because of 2014”.
“We can not give him time or room”.
Nishino has not had long to prepare his side since taking over when Vahid Halilhodzic was sacked in April.
Rodriguez didn’t have as much success following the World Cup.
Rodriguez, 26, is key to Colombia’s hopes at Russian Federation 2018 having scored six goals, creating four more, in their qualifying campaign.
“We want to do as well or better, but we have to focus on each match”, Pekerman said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top global coaches”. “(Japan) has good players with vast experience, although it is true that they’ve only played a few matches with their new coach, and he tried out two or three different systems”.