COLOMBIA v JAPAN
Live on BBC 1. Tuesday June 19, kick-off 1pm
COLOMBIA were one of the success stories at the last World Cup, their exciting attacking style carrying them to the quarter-finals where hosts Brazil proved a step too far.
James Rodriguez's six-goal haul at that tournament earned him the Golden Boot and the gaffer who masterminded their run, Jose Pekerman, remains at the helm but the sparkle of his side has faded.
Qualification for Russia 2018 was a slog that left nerves jangling until the last game where the point they required was delivered in a 1-1 draw with Peru to clinch a spot in Russia.
Their charge to the last eight in 2014 was Colombia's most successful World Cup campaign but just 10 of that 23-man squad remain in place as they bid to emulate that feat.
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Rodriguez will again be the key man and this time Pekerman can also call on Radamael Falcao, the Monaco striker playing his first World Cup at age 32 after injury cruelly ruled him out four years ago.
Despite their struggle to recapture the highs of the Brazil finals, Colombia can plot a path to the knockout stages with an opening win over a Japan side that looks that the weakest in Group H.
Japan's preparation for the finals has been farcical, with new manager Akira Nishino only taking charge in April. He replaced the unpopular Vahid Halilhodzic whose decision to jettison big-name stars Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki ultimately sealed his fate.
The Japanese squad in Russia has an average age of 28, making it their oldest ever at a World Cup, and Nishino will be relying on that experience to steady the ship after their chaotic build-up.
The Samurai Blue picked up just one point on route to a group-stage exit four years a go and a similar outcome wouldn't a surprise this time round.
- Colombia win (4-5, Black Type)
- Rodriguez (5-1, Ladbrokes)
- Colombia 2, Japan 0 (15-2, Betstars)