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Falcao Can Give Colombia Cutting Edge against Japan

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June 18, 2018
Colombia beat France 3-2 in a recent friendly

Colombia v Japan, Tuesday 19th June, 13:00

Los Cafeteros are an enigmatic bunch. On paper, they are a danger to anyone in world football, with loads of technically gifted players, but have yet to make the big breakthrough. Despite an impressive – not to mention promising – third place in the 2016 Copa America, they made tough work of qualifying for this World Cup, and only scraped through a difficult CONMEBOL conference after failing to win any of their final four qualifying matches. In addition, they have had a mixed run-in to Russia 2018, with a fine win against the fancied French before a very disappointing pair of 0-0 draws against Australia and Egypt. But they have both flair and technical excellence, and so if they can find some form they could be a danger to the big boys. Consistency will be key for them.

Their coach, José Pékerman, encourages patient, possession-based football and will need his big names to deliver. The aforementioned quality is spread evenly through the side and starts with a strong north London influence at the back, with Arsenal’s David Ospina in goal and Tottenham’s Davison Sanchez cutting an imposing figure at centre-back.  In more advanced areas they have James Rodriguez – the winner of the Golden Boot in Brazil 2014 – who will be looking to make a mark after a miserable spell at club level with Real Madrid, which has seen him loaned to Bayern Munich. A quality player of his ilk will be looking to utilise the biggest stage to re-establish himself. And of course, Radamel Falcao – a failure in the English Premier League but prolific scorer everywhere else – is up there with the most dangerous strikers in the tournament. The Colombians will be a threat, make no mistake. And a win over Japan in their opener would propel them in the right direction.

The Japanese squad may not have the big names of previous World Cups, but what it has is European experience by the bucket load, something that could stand them in good stead. They will lean on Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund (formerly of Man Utd) and Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki.
They also have momentum, and their comfortable Asian qualification campaign – finishing ahead of Saudi Arabia and Australia – has set them up nicely for a crack at the knockout stages, although that will likely necessitate them beating one of either Poland or Colombia. In addition to Kagawa and Okazaki, they have quality in defence in the form of Yuto Nagamoto and in midfield, Keisuke Honda also brings flair to the table. But the task ahead of them is a big one, and while defeat against the Columbians won’t end their hopes, it will heap pressure on their second game against Senegal.

In their three previous meetings, the Colombians have won twice – most recently in Brazil 2014 (4-1) – with the other game being a goalless draw, so everything points to a Colombian victory.

Poland and Senegal Can Entertain with Attacking Intent

Robert Lewandowski

Poland v Senegal, Tuesday 19th June, 16:00

In their first World Cup since 2006, the Poles will be backed by huge numbers of fans. This, in itself, could have an impact; so too the fact that they have an experienced, ageing squad, laced with talent, which may see Russia 2018 as its final hurrah. In the striking department, Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski – who will be 29 and 32 respectively – both offer a vast array of experience and goals. This may be their best, and possibly last, chance to make an impact on the game’s biggest stage, so both will be desperate to give their travelling support something to cheer about.

Poland’s team will be largely unchanged from the one that reached the quarter-finals in Euro 2016 –where they lost on penalties to eventual champions Portugal – and they do have a defence that has earned an unhealthy reputation as being one that is known to wilt under pressure; a 4-0 hammering by Denmark in September 2017 is a classic example.

For their part, the Senegalese have World Cup previous. They rocked the footballing world back in 2002 when they stunned the reigning champions France in the opening game of the tournament with a 1-0 win. They went on to make it to the quarter-finals. This time around, in a controversial qualifying campaign, Senegal benefited from an unprecedented decision by FIFA when they had to replay their 2-1 loss in South Africa because of alleged match-fixing by the referee. They won the replay and in doing so took control of the group and ultimately earned their ticket to Russia.

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is their star, but alongside him, they have the likes of Moussa Sow and Keita Balde, and the dominant figure of Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly at centre back. The Senegalese are in good form and beat South Korea 2-0 in their final warm-up game and played well in their 2-1 defeat by Croatia earlier in the month. And, tellingly, they have only lost one of their last ten games.

With both teams having an attacking intent and some quality strikers – Lewandowski and Mane in particular – this is a game where goals are expected; the Poles having scored nine in their last three games. The stats suggest both teams are likely to score.

About the author

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

Sports Journalist

Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.