Colombia vs. Japan (Group C) | Kickoff: 6/24, 4 p.m. ET | Stadium: Castelao
It was no secret coming in: Japan needed a lot of offense and a lot of luck to move through to the knockout stage. These things did not happen.
Japan was able to sneak a goal across just before halftime, but Colombia, behind wunderkind James Rodriguez, dominated the second half, pulling away for a 4-1 victory.
Colombia had already locked up a spot in the knockout round while Japan just had a fighting chance. That chance was erased after a bevy of Colombia goals buried the Japanese side.
Notably, Jackson Martinez was able to get in the scoring column -- twice! -- while James Rodriguez was again sensational. He is fast becoming a player that can't be missed.
Colombia now will move on to play Uruguay in the Round of 16, and Greece -- the other representative from Group C -- will face Costa Rica.
FINAL: Japan 1 (Okazaki 45'+) - Colombia 4 (Cuadrado 17', Martinez 55', 82', Rodriguez 90')
90' -- Okay, James Rodriguez is something else. An absolutely beautiful goal to close things out. Makes the Japan defense look silly. He's 22, folks.
85' -- Faryd Mondragon comes on in goal for Colombia. At 43, he's the oldest player to ever appear in a World Cup match.
82' -- Goodnight. Jackson Martinez scores again -- a GREAT sign for Colombia going forward -- which crushes Japan.
81' -- Japan needs goals. Japan is not getting goals.
75' -- Ivory Coast has scored, putting Japan in an even worse position. They're not getting through, you guys.
72' -- Jackson Martinez has a great chance at his second goal, but he instead just smokes it off some Japanese dude's face. Colombia corner cleared.
68' -- A couple good chances for Japan wasted. A one-touch just north of the crossbar off a great cross.
64' -- Keisuke Honda tries from distance, but it's blocked. Japan is running short on time.
58' -- Kagawa gets a chance, but no dice. Japan really needs to press now.
55' -- Well, nevermind. Jackson Martinez finally, finally finishes a goal for Colombia -- set up by James Rodriguez. That pretty much does it for Japan. Need at least two goals, now.
55' -- Not a lot of chances for Japan, but they're holding Colombia at bay -- for the most part. Some chances wasted.
49' -- Colombia with early chances but nothing to show. Should see plenty of attack from Japan's side.
Halftime: So here's the deal. If Japan can scratch across another goal and win, and Greece hold on, Japan will be through. Even if Ivory Coast draws Greece, they could be in trouble.
45'+ -- GOAL Japan. Okay, look out. Okazaki scores and now Japan has a real chance to move through if they can score again and Greece hold on. High drama for the second half.
43' -- Things interesting now, since Greece has scored. If Japan can come back to win and Greece hold on, Japan is through. Big 'if', obviously.
42' -- That really should have been it, but Jackson Martinez basically whiffes on an easy cross into center. Really, really should have been a goal.
40' -- Decent chance as Kagawa turns and fires, but it's deflected out for a corner.
36' -- Japan is having a fairly difficult time maintaining possession and getting chances. They try a bicycle kick off a cross -- you can imagine how that turned out (poorly).
33' -- Honda hits a free kick that goes just wide. Japan still searching for the net.
29' -- Great chance for Colombia. Good look from Cuadrado results in a chance for Quintero, who goes down, but no call.
26' -- Wonderful chance for Kagawa, but a nice save for Colombia keeper David Ospina.
24' -- Wow. Cuadrado sends a perfect ball in, but Jackson Martinez is dispossessed. Maybe a foul. Japan is in real trouble. They HAVE to score.
23' -- Japan earns a free kick from a decent position, but it's, well, awful.
17' -- Goal, Colombia. Juan Cuadrado buries it, and, frankly, that's it. Japan, who hasn't scored in ages, must score twice. Good luck.
16' -- Japan really pressing, but Colobia counters and -- boom -- Colombia earns a penalty kick on a totally reckless challenge in the box. Bad, bad play.
14' -- Slow going on both ends. Japan dominating possession. Atsuto Uchida has a try, but nothing doin'.
8' -- Of course, Uruguay may be without Luis Suarez.
Okay, I promise to only talk about Japan and Colombia from now on.
6' -- Little is happening. Something of note: Colombia is through, no question. If they are to win the group, they play Uruguay. If they come in second, they play Costa Rica. Hmm.
1' -- We're underway. Simply, Colombia is playing for position, and Japan must win. And the latter needs help, even with a victory.
3:45 p.m. ET: The lineup questions have been answered. Japan will indeed start Shinji Kagawa in an effort to kickstart its sputtering attack.
For Colombia, Mario Yepes, the aging defender, will not start.
Full lineups below.
Japan: Eiji Kawashima; Atsuto Uchida, Yasuyuki Konno, Maya Yoshida, Yuto Nagatomo; Makoto Hasebe, Toshihiro Aoyama; Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki; Yoshito Okubo
Colombia: David Ospina; Santiago Arias, Eder Alvarez Balanta, Pablo Armero, Carlos Valdes; Fredy Guarin, Alexander Mejia, Juan Cuadrado, Juan Quintero; Adrian Ramos, Jackson Martinez
Match Preview: Colombia has already secured a spot in the knockout stage, so all eyes will be on Japan Tuesday.
And poor Japan. It was there for the taking against Greece, but they couldn't scratch across a goal despite a one-man advantage for the majority of the game. Now they must hope for at least an Ivory Coast draw in order to have a fighting chance still. Oh, and they must beat Colombia -- a draw won't cut it.
Japan's attack, led by striker Keisuke Honda, was powerful if fruitless against Greece. It will likely be tougher sledding Tuesday, but if anyone's due for a goal it's the Japanese.
Colombia, on the other hand, has been scoring with ease. They have five goals in two matches, led by James Rodriguez who has been effective both scoring and setting up chances.
The real question, for both sides, will be the starting lineups. Colombia is faced with deciding whether they should rest some players -- notably midfielder Juan Cuadrado and ageless defender Mario Yepes -- ahead of the knockout round. Juan Quintero, who came on and scored against the Ivory Coast, may start.
For Japan, the central issue is the status of star striker Shinji Kagawa, who was removed from the starting lineup after a subpar performance against the Ivory Coast. The Manchester United forward is something of an institution in Japanese soccer, and clearly the offense was even more lacking against Greece. He did come on late but failed to make any impact.
Obviously Japan will need goals if there to have any hope of moving through, so expect Kagawa in the lineup. But even if they finally do find they net, they'll need some help from Greece.