Japan - Colombia Preview: Pekerman's side aim for perfect record

The coach has seen his side win convincingly twice and will look to head into the knockout stages with the confidence of three straight group victories
By Peter Staunton in Cuiaba

Japan have disappointed in their opening two games and there is a sense that they have failed to reach their potential. As reigning Asian Cup holders they were expected to lead the challenge from the east but even with star players who feature for some of Europe's pre-eminent teams, Alberto Zaccheroni's side have simply failed to get going.

The Samurai Blue are on the brink of elimination from the tournament after being beaten by Cote d'Ivoire in their opener before being held by 10-man Greece last time out.

They had plenty of the ball in both matches but fell short when it came to creating chances. Playmaker Shinji Kagawa has looked out of sorts and is yet to complete 90 minutes while the ongoing issue of finding a reliable striker persists.

With one point from two matches and the runaway group leaders to play, Japan's 2014 challenge looks in danger of going out with a whimper.

There is still slight hope of course. Should Cote d'Ivoire lose to Greece and Japan defeat Colombia then they will squeak through to the knockout stages. Should the African side and the Greeks play out a draw then Japan need to beat Colombia by two goals - no easy feat given the two sides' contrasting form in the group so far.

Playing some of the best football and boasting some of the best individual talent at these finals, Jose Pekerman's Colombia are certainly living up to their billing as tournament dark horses. They overwhelmed Greece with their creative power and demonstrated important resoluteness in holding off the challenge of Cote d'Ivoire.

Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez have stood out in a tournament brimming with attacking intent to help los Cafeteros seal a first knockout place in 24 years with a game to spare.

Pekerman may be tempted to make changes with qualification already assured and there is plenty of strength in depth. Fredy Guarin is in contention after suspension while Adrian Ramos or Jackson Martinez may be afforded their first start of these finals up front.