Poland take on Columbia in a Group H clash in the World Cup between two sides looking to bounce back from shock defeats on match day one in the group.
Poland opened their campaign with a surprise 2-1 setback to Senegal, whilst Columbia fell to a same scoreline defeat to Japan.
A succession of other such surprise results around the tournament have sent shockwaves through the competition and a stern warning to the bigger nations: reputation alone will not be enough to win matches this time.
Both Poland and Columbia must recover from being on the wrong end of such performances and go again on Sunday.
Poland’s 2-1 defeat to Senegal on match day one has left them third in Group H as things stand and with it all still to do if they are to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament, as was heavily expected of them at the start of the competition.
A Thiago Cionek own goal got the Poles’ campaign off to the worst possible start, and a strike from former Watford loanee M’Baye Niang on the hour mark really compiled Poland’s early angst.
Superstar striker Robert Lewandowski’s impact on the match was remote, and a late Grzegorz Krychowiak strike was not enough to spare the blushes of Adam Nawalka’s side.
A match day two showdown with Columbia offers little hope of an easier ride, though Sunday’s South American opponents are in the same unenviable position of having to bounce back from their own opening defeat.
Jose Pekerman’s side got off to a nightmare start against Japan. Former Aston Villa midfielder Carlos Sanchez was sent off just three minutes into the match for a serious handball offence. Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa hit home the resulting penalty.
With James Rodriguez only fit enough for the bench, it seemed as though Columbia would be short of the attacking impetus to get themselves back into the game. Porto’s Juan Quintero stepped up, however, equalising late on in the first half to abort the early shock. Or so it seemed.
Having played the majority of the match with ten men, Columbia eventually slipped once more as Cologne striker Yuya Osako struck another blow to the South Americans with little over quarter of an hour left to play.
Columbia could not recover again, and the Japanese ran out shock winners. Both Poland and Los Cafeteros have had horrific starts to their World Cup campaigns, and the two favourites to progress from Group H must hit back as they face off against each other on Sunday.
A defeat for either side on Sunday would see their hopes of progression into the knockout stages of the World Cup end, meaning the stakes could not be higher in this clash.
This will be the first competitive meeting between the two nations, making it a difficult tie to predict.
The most recent friendly match between the two was in 2006, which Columbia won 2-1. Elkin Murillo and Luis Martinez scored for the South Americans on that occasion, with a 90th minute strike from Ireneusz Jelen in vain for Poland.
Whilst the considerable attacking potential of each side was not reflected in either of their opening matches, both Poland and Columbia do boast a number of key forward stars which are capable of deciding any match on their day.
Central to the attacking qualities of each side are their centre forwards, and both have true superstars leading the line.
For Poland, Robert Lewandowski is the main man. Not only is he the Polish captain, he is also his country’s all-time leading goal scorer. The Bayern Munich star has become renowned as one of the most fearsome target men in world football, and Columbia’s defence must keep his attacking impact on Sunday’s match nullified.
Columbia’s attack, meanwhile, is lead by the famous name of Radamel Falcao. The former Manchester United and Chelsea loanee does not boast the same formidable reputation or strike rate which he once did earlier in his career, but the Monaco man is still a real handful with his sharp movement and striking instincts in and around the box.
Like Lewandowski for Poland, Falcao is both captain and record goal scorer for Columbia, and Sunday’s match seems set to be a showdown between two of the greatest strikers of the past decade, with each set to lead their side into this crucial battle.
Whilst there are no traditional injury concerns for Poland ahead of Sunday’s match, Adam Nawalka’s side have overcome one of the more bizarre instances in recent memory off the pitch.
Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik gave his side a scare by slipping and falling in a puddle whilst visiting an aquarium for dolphins. Whilst Milik did injure his hand in the fall, it was reported that there were no fractures and only bruising. He is therefore likely to continue in the side in support of Robert Lewandowski in the Polish attack.
Columbia, meanwhile, should be boosted by being able to recall James Rodriguez to their starting lineup.
One of the biggest stars of the Columbian side, Rodriguez was restricted to a second half substitute appearance against Japan as he recovered from muscle fatigue but should be fit and ready to feature from the outset on Sunday to boost his side’s hopes of qualification for the last 16 of the tournament.
This is a match which appears relatively evenly matched between two strong teams, each of which would have been expected to be the two sides which would go on to qualify comfortably from Group H ahead of the tournament.
Sunday’s showdown could be decided by a moment of brilliance from one of the host of attacking stars of either team, but with defeat for either side set to cost elimination from the tournament, the desire of each not to lose could result in them simply cancelling each other out.
Score Prediction: Poland 1-1 Columbia