Colombia sealed qualification in the final game as they grabbed a draw with Peru but they were far from convincing throughout qualifying and despite having plenty of big names in their squad, their performances have not really matched the hype.
They have some top class players in James Rodriguez and Falcao but they will need both of them to find something close to their best form as they have largely struggled in recent times with their domestic teams.
Barcelona defender Mina forced his way into the side in qualifying but Pekerman may decide to go with the more experienced Cristian Zapata after seeing the young defender struggle badly for Barcelona in the few games he played at the end of the season.
Arias, C. Zapata, D. Sanchez, Fabra
Lerma, C. Sanchez
Cuadrado, James Rodriguez, Muriel
Preparations for the Japanese team have not been as smooth as they have could have been following an indifferent qualifying phase and the Japanese Football Association decided to change coach for this tournament and have hired Akira Nishino just two months before the start.
Key players such as Kagawa, Honda, Hasebe and Okazaki have not played as much football as they would have liked in the build up to Russia, but the new coach has essentially been told that those iconic players have to start here.
That may cause issues within itself and it is difficult to have too much faith in this Japan side. Although we know they will approach it in their usual hard working manner, that may not be enough in Russia in a tough and relatively well balanced group.
Predicted line-up (4-3-3):
H. Sakai, Yoshida, Shoji, Nagatomo
Yamaguchi, Hasebe, Honda
Kagawa, Okazaki, Inui
On paper, this Japan team look as well equipped as any team out of the Asian confederation to cause an upset or two but their preparations have not been smooth. This group is one of the hardest groups to call so every game will likely be tight and close fought, but it is difficult to have too much confidence given the changes and disruption around the Japanese camp. Colombia have plenty of quality themselves even if the form of some of their star players has not been great and they should rise to the occasion in what should be an entertaining game.
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