The Japanese need a minor miracle if they’re to get out of Group C, and on their showing in the tournament up to now, they don’t deserve to. Ivory Coast are likely to beat Greece in the other match, which will make this a dead rubber at least as far as Japan are concerned – but there seems to be a gulf in quality and application between these two teams anyway.
Japan started their campaign reasonably well, with their best creative player Keisuke Honda blasting in a beauty to give them the lead against Ivory Coast. But once the Africans started working the ball out to their full-backs and bombarding Japan with crosses, they prevailed fairly comfortably. That left Japan needing a win against a dull Greek side who became even more defensive when they had a man sent off. Japan couldn’t break them down, in an awful game that ended 0-0.
Toothless in attack and shaky at the back, Japan will struggle to live with Colombia, whose number ten James Rodriguez must be considered for the team of the tournament so far. Right-sided attacker Juan Cuadrado isn’t far off either, and they have pace and power all over the pitch. Japan must look to their playmakers – will Shinji Kagawa be recalled? – and accomplished full-backs. They might also hope that Colombia, who won’t be too bothered about which Group D team they meet in the round of 16, rest a host of key players.