Group H was thrown on its head after Japan and Senegal both picked up shock victories against group favourites Colombia and Poland. Senegal twice took the lead against Japan but were twice pegged back by the plucky Asian side, leaving it all to play for in the final round of fixtures.
Colombia meanwhile dispatched of Poland 3-0, sending the Eagles home. The other three teams are now vying for the two qualifying spots with just a point separating them. All three sides will enter the final round of fixtures with their fate in their own hands and this should be the choice game of that final showdown.
Colombia need three points to qualify for the knockout stages, whilst Senegal need three points to likely win the group which could make all the difference in the latter stages. Senegal have the slight advantage in that a draw will eliminate Colombia but the South Americans have the superior lineup so it should make for a good battle.
Senegal got off to the perfect start in the tournament with a 2-0 win over Poland. The Lions of Teranga were helped in part by some sloppy defending from the Poles, particularly in the build-up to the second goal. Entering the group from pot three, the African nation were hopeful of getting out of the group in the clash with Japan.
They took an early lead in that game, Sadio Mane was Johnny-on-the-spot to put his side in front just 11 minutes in. Takashi Inui’s curling shot drew the sides level before half-time in a tense encounter. Senegal took the lead again in the 71st minute but could only hold on for seven minutes before Japan equalised, ending the game 2-2 and leaving them with work to do.
Colombia have been quite the opposite, enduring a woeful opening tie with Japan with Carlos Sanchez being sent off in the 3rd minute and Japan scoring from the resulting penalty. They did manage to peg the Japanese back before half-time but were eventually overran as the game drew on, losing 2-1.
They responded phenomenally in their second match though, with eleven men on the field they comfortably outplayed Poland. Their key men delivered for them on the day with the 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez stealing the headlines as they finished 3-0 winners.
This will be the first competitive meeting for the two sides but they have met once before in a 2014 friendly in Buenos Aires. It proved a good contest with Colombia leading the fixture 2-0 at half-time courtesy of goals from Teofilo Gutierrez and Carlos Bacca.
Senegal began the second half strongly though with Moussa Konate and Cheikh N’doye scoring inside the first five minutes, securing a 2-2 stalemate. Three of those goalscorers came off the bench in their countries’ last World Cup game so they could be involved in the mix again for this match.
Aliou Cisse will be able to call on any of his Senegal squad as they have so far avoided any injuries in this tournament. He may be inclined to shuffle his pack though after some sloppy defending allowed Japan back into the previous game – he won’t want any more of that against Colombia.
Abel Aguilar came off with an injury in the clash with Poland but reports suggest it was more of a precaution than anything and he should be fit for selection if required. Carlos Sanchez will miss this match with a suspension though for the straight red card he picked up in the opening game with Japan.
Senegal (4-4-2): N’diaye, Wague, Sane, Koulibaly, Sabaly, Mane, N’diaye, Gueye, Sarr, Niang, Diouf
Colombia ( 4-2-3-1): Ospina, Arias, Mina, Sanchez, Mojica, Barrios, Uribe, Rodriguez, Quintero, Cuadrado, Falcao
Senegal have the slight advantage in that they could play for a shutout, but given they’ve already conceded three times it might not be the best plan. Aliou Cisse needs to build on the confidence in his side and look to attack Colombia from the off and put them under pressure.
Colombia have their tails up now though after storming to victory against Poland, and whilst they lost to Japan they did have a man sent off in the third minute of that game. Even at 10 men, they created problems for Japan, so assuming they retain a full contingent they will hurt this sloppy Senegalese defence.
A score draw is the best Senegal can hope for but Colombia will make it difficult for M’Baye Niang and Mame Biram Diouf, who aren’t the most agile of front pairings at this tournament. Colombia should navigate this challenge and will pose a real threat to either England or Belgium in the next round depending on how those groups finish up later in the day.
Prediction: Senegal 1-3 Colombia