Colombia v Japan preview
Colombia and Japan will both be looking to get off to winning starts when their World Cup campaigns get underway in Saransk on Tuesday lunchtime.
The two nations go head-to-head in their Group H clash at the Mordovia Arena, with all eyes on Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez, who is a doubt for the game.
Rodriguez, 26, was the star of the last World Cup in Brazil when his six goals and two assists led to him winning the Golden Ball awarded for best player at the tournament.
However, the Bayern Munich midfielder has been struggling with a muscle problem recently, making his participation for this clash at the Mordovia Arena touch and go.
Colombia have a doubt over Rodriguez, who was absent from a training session last week due to a muscle problem.
However, Johan Mojica is set to deputise at left-back for Frank Fabra, who is out of the tournament due to a knee injury.
Meanwhile, Japan forward Shinji Okazaki may miss out with a calf problem, although midfielder Ryota Oshima and defender Gen Shoji are expected to be fit after they both recently returned to training.
Colombia are unbeaten against Japan (W2 D1).
Their only previous World Cup encounter produced a 4-1 win for Colombia in June 2014; it was also Japan’s last game in the tournament
Japan are winless against South American sides at the World Cup (D1 L3)
Colombia have qualified for their 6th World Cup, their second in a row after failing to reach the finals in the previous three editions
Colombia won four games in their last World Cup (2014), more than in their previous four appearances combined (3 wins in 13 games).
2014 is also the only time they have topped their group in the tournament
None of Colombia’s 18 games at the World Cup have ended goalless.
In fact, only the USA (33) and Austria (29) have played more games in the competition without ever registering a 0-0
Japan have qualified for the World Cup for the sixth time, reaching every edition of the tournament since 1998 and alternating between getting knocked out in the group stages (1998, 2006, 2014) and in the round of 16 (2002, 2010).
In fact, Japan have won their group only once at the World Cup – on home soil in 2002.