Columbia kicked off the World Cup in hopes of repeating the last tournament in which they made the quarterfinals. in the opening game of Group H they took on a Japan side looking for an upset. While Columbia was looking to get off to a fast start in Russia Columbia was without James Rodriguez due to an injury but did come on as a substitute however it never mattered. Carlos Sanchez gave up an early penalty and saw a red card as Shinji Kagawa converted from the spot To give Japan the 1-0 lead. Columbia later equalized but Japan was in cruise control as they looks like the far superior team throughout the 90 minutes it had looked like a draw have been settled which would have been a good result for Columbia because this would have been stealing at Point but late in the game off a set piece Yuya Osako headed home the winner to give Japan a shock result pulling off an upset against James Rodriguez is Colombia. Columbia doesn’t need to panic but this puts them in a must-win situation on Sunday against Poland.
Columbia’s goalkeeping issues
Going into this tournament I was very confident in the fact that this Columbia team can make a deep run but the one thing which was of great uncertainty to me is goalkeeping. David Ospina has not played regular football on a consistent basis this season he is Arsenal second-choice goalkeeper behind a Peter Cech that has not done very well over the last few years but still has been unable to secure the starting job for Arsenal. This was a major concern for me because I don’t trust him in the net I’m not going to kill him for his performance today I suppose it could have been worse but he just was not good enough and the problem is there aren’t other goalkeepers on this Columbia team who are any better so this is something that will continue to plague them which is why it’s really important the attack well. Today Ospina didn’t do very well they only let in two goals but he nearly could have conceded many more I felt he lacked control in the net and it’s clear their not completely secure in goal which is going to be a big issue because now after the opening game it is clear Columbia are going to have to score goals to advance. This is a team that on paper should not have lost today and should not lose any more games in this group now there in an unfavorable situation simply put the goalkeeping must be better it just was not good enough today.
Early red card changed Colombia’s approach
Columbia gave up a penalty in the opening five minutes in doing so Carlos Sanchez handball got him sent off as he was given a red card so just four minutes into their World Cup they were already a man down. This Japanese team going into the tournament seem like clearly the fourth best in the group but they punished them they had an opportunity and they took it. Shinji Kagawa scored the opening penalty and the opening 5 minutes changed the outcome of this game. They changed their approach which I thought was a massive error they had to change something with the man down to adjust but then before half-time they took off their most important player that was on the pitch Juan Cuadrado who is arguably their most creative player who was doing dangerous things on the wing Jose Pekerman took him out before halftime and then the momentum shifted back into the Japanese favor. They did get back into the game temporarily but the adjustments made by the Colombian manager I believe cost them this game.
The strong Japanese attack
Japan lacked a major superstar striker going into this tournament but I realize watching this game that they didn’t need one. After the red card occurred which may have helped but the Japanese Midfield and attack got forward frequently. There wasn’t too much counter-attacking football but when they got into space and they got areas was pretty good. In all honesty they probably could have scored more they missed some good chances in front of goal but overall they got themselves in position on a regular basis to score which is going to be huge for them over the next two games it took me by surprise they don’t have that world class player that Senegal has that Poland has and that Colombia has but it was evident in this game they don’t need a star player they work well collectively their attack was dangerous and broke down a very good and strong Colombian defense whether they were down to 10 men are not is irrelevant they broke down a very tough defense.
James Rodriguez comes off the bench
It was brought to my attention before the start of this game that James Rodriguez may not start that idea in itself is concerning because of how good he is and how weel he has played for the Columbia team in the past 2 years. He lit up the last World Cup. He ultimately came on in the second half and did some nice things which is really good and important but the question is how big an issue is his health. Columbia need him at his very best because as of I’ve always said this Columbia team ticks as Rodriguez does he is the engine of the team without them they are not the same I’m not saying they’re not good because there still a very good team but without their centerpiece there not as efficient or effective. There’s Health may be a small deal and I hope it is because Columbia needs a fully-fit healthy James Rodriguez for them to go on a Deep Run. I still stand by what I said at the beginning of this tournament I believe this team will make the quarter-finals but if Rodriguez is not fully fit it puts that possibility in serious doubt.
Japan have me making of a dark horse
Going into this group it was my belief that Japan was definitively the fourth best team in this group The lack of star power was why I felt this way. Despite having a very good player in Shinji Kagawa I felt that the pieces around him were not strong enough for them to go on a run in this tournament. I was incredibly wrong about this they looked fantastic Japan defended really well their goalkeeper had a superb game and as I mentioned their attack was excellent. They delivered in an important moment in this game scoring a late goal to ensure three points and a big three points at that. They may be a dark horse in this group after watching why they play today I think it’s possible they could beat Poland or Senegal probably not both but they could get points in the both of the remaining games. I still don’t think they’re capable of going on a run deeper than that but you never know I really underestimated this team despite not having the superstars that other teams in this group have this is Japanese team that was efficient they played well they passed well that they are extremely well coached this Japanese team could shock a few for the most part they played a near perfect game. Many people probably thought that Columbia would dominate this game I’m not going to say that Japan dominated but they were the clearly better more prepared team today it was a massive mistake to underestimate this team because I don’t think it’s impossible that they could win the group they were helped by the red card but a superb performance from this energetic Japan side.