Of the six teams already qualified for the knockout round, only one has gone through with a perfect record. Today in Cuiabá, Colombia looks to join them, though the Cafeteros need only a draw against third place Japan to secure first place in Group C at the 2014 World Cup.
That placing will ensure the attack-heavy South Americans will avoid the top qualifier from Group D. Because of the depth of that group, though, first place will provide little consolation. The South American champions, Uruguay, will face Colombia, should José Pékerman get a result this afternoon.
Even if Colombia’s upset by the Samurai Blue, it will take a lopsided result in one of the day’s games to push the Ivory Coast into first. For Les Elephants, however, the goals are more modest. Making their third appearance at the World Cup, the Ivorians are looking for their first place in the knockout round. Beat Greece in Fortaleza, and Sabri Lamouchi’s side is through.
But that’s not the only way the Ivorians can get through. Thanks to edges in goal difference and goals scored, the first tiebreakers are currently in the Elephants‘ favor, which means with one point against Greece, the Ivorians are through unless Japan puts up a high-scoring or lopsided win. If Greece upsets Lamouchi’s team, the former European champions will go through with a Colombia result.
[ MORE Soccerly: Follow Japan-Colombia | Greece-Ivory Coast ]
Tired of the scenarios? Yeah, they get a little think at this point of the tournament. Thankfully, the soccer starts soon. Here are the lineups:
Japan: Kawashima; Uchida, Yoshida, Konno, Nagatomo; Hasebe, Aoyama; Okubo, Honda, Kagawa; Okazaki
Colombia: Ospina; Arias, Valdes, Balanta, Armero; Cuadrado, Guarin, Mejia, Quintero; Ramos, Martínez
Expectation: Colombia are big favorites, with Japan failing to impress over their first 180 minutes in Brazil.
One blogger’s prediction: Japan may give the Cafeteros some early trouble, but they’re just outgunned. Even if Alberto Zaccheroni can spring an early surprise, the depth at Pékerman’s disposal should get the team to nine points. 3-1, Colombia.
Greece: Karnezi; Torosidis, Manolas, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Christodoulopoulos, Karagounis, Kone, Salpingidis; Samaras
Ivory Coast: Barry; Aurier, K. Touré, Bamba, Boka; Tioté, Serey Die, Y. Touré; Kalou, Drogba, Gervinho
Expectation: While there is a healthy respect for the trouble Greece can give an opponent, few are picking them to trip up the Ivorians.
One blogger’s prediction: The Ivorians haven’t scored a goal in the first 60 minutes of either of their games. Should they start slow again, they’ll find it difficult to switch gears against a Greece them comfortably hanging out in their bunker. While a 0-0 is tempting, I’m still taking the Ivorians, 1-0.