Saransk (Russia)– Colombia will look to 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez and top scorer Radamel Falcao for inspiration when they take on Japan in their Group H FIFA World Cup opener here on Tuesday.
Colombia have tougher outings against Poland and Senegal after the Japan game and the Andean nation will look to repeat their group stage 4-1 2014 World Cup triumph over the Blue Samurais.
“We’re going to conquer Russia,” Falcao posted on Instagram recently alongside a picture of the South Americans decked out in ties on their plane to Russia.
Colombia were at their best in Brazil four years ago, reaching the quarter-finals, their best result ever.
Since then, they have endured a downturn though, surviving a wretched World Cup qualifying campaign for Russia.
They scored just 21 goals during the gruelling two-year, 18-match South American qualifiers and limped over the line with three points from their last four games to claim fourth spot.
Coached by Argentine Jose Pekerman, Colombia will look to their attacking prowess and prove that their run in Brazil was not just a one-off.
“We have to take the initiative. We are a team that’s characterized itself for that. We need to have confidence to go up front. But we also can’t lose defensive strength,” midfielder Abel Aguilar said on Friday.
Coming to Japan, the prospect of facing AS Monaco’s Falcao and Rodriguez – on loan from Real Madrid at Bayern Munich — should keep them on their toes.
Japan head coach Akira Nishino, a former international midfielder who took over in April, said last month that beating Colombia would be a “small miracle.”
Japan have experienced players in their ranks in the form of Yuto Nagatomo, Shinji Okazaki and captain Makoto Hasebe.
“The quality of the Colombian team has gone up, and they have height and athleticism,” said Fortuna Duesseldorf’s Takashi Usami this month. “We have to adjust the quality of our ball delivery and the recipient’s timing to meet the ball.” (IANS)