Cuiaba, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Colombia will look to put the finishing touches on a successful Group C campaign on Tuesday at the Arena da Baixada when the team takes on a desperate Japan side.
Colombia has been one of the most impressive sides in Brazil through two games, beating both Greece and Ivory Coast to book a spot in the next round.
And with a draw or win, Jose Pekerman's team will clinch the top spot in the group and turn its attentions toward making a deep run in the knockout round.
Japan, meanwhile, has been disappointing at this World Cup, losing a 1-0 second-half lead against Ivory Coast to fall 2-1, while the last outing for the Japanese was even more of a letdown as they failed to score on a Greece side that played the final 50-plus minutes of the game with 10 men, settling for a 0-0 draw.
Now, Japan must beat Colombia and hope for a loss or draw by Ivory Coast against Greece to have a chance at reaching the knockout round.
When Greek midfielder Kostas Katsouranis was sent off against Japan in the 38th minute, it seemed as though the Japanese had a golden opportunity to collect three points and put themselves in a much better position to advance.
But despite having the majority of the possession in the second half, Japan was unable to unlock the Greek defense, and now faces an uphill battle against Colombia.
"Even though Colombia have already qualified, for us the game will be like a final and we'll be playing for our lives," said Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda following the match against Greece. "I think that today we made plenty of chances, enough to have scored a goal and taken all three points, which would have left us in a better situation. But unfortunately we fell a touch short with our finishing. We now need to iron out those flaws in our next game and pick up what would be a very important win."
It is a win that Japan must have, but one that doesn't figure to come easily against an in-form Colombia side that is firing on all cylinders at the moment.
Even without star striker Radamel Falcao, who failed to recover in time from an ACL injury, Colombia has found other options in attack.
James Rodriguez has been outstanding for Colombia in his first two games, scoring two goals and assisting on another, while Teofilo Gutierrez has done well in leading the line with a goal and assist of his own.
Colombia took a little while to get going last time out against Ivory Coast, but Juan Fernando Quintero came on as a substitute in the second half and spiced things up, scoring in the 70th minute to put his team up 2-0 just six minutes after Rodriguez opened the scoring.
The result was particularly satisfying for Rodriguez, who felt that the level of opposition provided by Ivory Coast was a step above what his team faced against Greece in the opener.
"It's easy to play when you've got good footballers. When Juan [Quintero] came on that was the case - he made things easier for us," Rodriguez said. "This game was tougher than our previous one, because Ivory Coast have better players [than Greece] and are physically stronger. That's why these three points feel harder earned. Of course I love scoring, but the most important thing is to do my bit for the team, be it by providing assists or scoring goals."