Cafeteros vs Elephants
Ivory Coast (population 20 million): Africa’s highest-ranked team in Brazil, the Ivory Coast have featured at the previous two World Cups and are perhaps Colombia’s sternest test in Group C. Well organised by coach and former France international Sabri Lamouchi, the Ivorians should not be taken lightly.
With obvious talent in the likes of midfield general Yaya Toure and the powerful frontmen Didier Drogba and Wilfried Bony, The Elephants are likely to provide a significant attacking threat. Add to this the pace of Salomon Kalou and Roma’s Gervinho on the wings. However, Colombia should take solace in the fact that the Ivory Coast has a slow and ageing central defence, and a distinct lack of quality full-backs.
The Ivory Coast’s powerful midfielders aim to dominate possession and press high up the pitch, but if the likes of Teo, James and Cuadrado can break through and capitalise on the Ivorian defence’s well-documented lapses in concentration, Colombia should be able get some more points on the board.
Prediction: Colombia 3-2 Ivory Coast
Cafeteros vs Blue Samurai
Japan (population 128 million): Often underrated on the world stage, Japan have long been at the top of Asia’s footballing pantheon. Having come through an impressive qualifying campaign where they suffered just one defeat, the Samurai Blue come into this competition high on confidence. Italian legend Alberto Zaccheroni has instilled an attacking playing style that has seen Japan lauded internationally, despite them finishing bottom in their group at last year’s Confederations Cup. Utilising the technical ability and creativity of their attack-minded players and rapid full-backs, they will look to exploit any holes in the opposition defence.
The team possesses quality in the form of AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa who, despite limited opportunities at Manchester United, remains an important part of the team. However, Japan’s relatively weak defence should provide opportunities for Colombia’s forwards. At times, they have also been accused of not being clinical enough in front of goal, something which experienced defenders Yepes and Zapata will no doubt aim to take advantage of.
Prediction: Colombia 2-0 Japan