Colombia will find out today if they have woken up in time to enjoy the World Cup party when they play their final Group H game against Senegal. Jose Pekerman's team was as brilliant in their second game against Poland as it had been disappointing in their first match with Japan.
Now it has the chance to secure qualification by seeing off Senegal in Samara. If they win it is through, and if they win while Japan drops points they will top the group. Juan Cuadrado realizes beating Senegal will not be easy.
"We will have to play clever. We know their players are very strong and fast, and we have to be wary of that," he said.
Senegal will progress with a draw, but coach Aliou Cisse was not pleased with his team's display against Japan.
"We need to improve in terms of aggression, rigor and concentration. We also have to keep the ball better," he said. "We did those things against Poland and we need to get that back. I still hope to qualify because we have the quality necessary to face Colombia."
Japan has been the surprise package of Group H and only needs a point in their last game against eliminated Poland to progress. Top place could be decided by fair play if Senegal and Japan both win or draw.
In Group G's other match, Panama will bring the curtain down on their first ever World Cup finals when they play Tunisia in Saransk. Panama has scored the first World Cup in its history – now it wants a first-ever win on their tournament debut. Tunisia, in their fifth appearance, has not won in the World Cup for 40 years.
The omens are looking good for a winning result for one of the sides. Both have looked porous in defense, with 16 goals conceded between them, while since the move to a 32-team World Cup in 1998, all games between two already-eliminated sides have ended decisively.
The winners of Group H will play the runners-up in Group G to be decided later today when qualified duo Belgium and England meet in Kaliningrad. England coach Gareth Southgate has dismissed the idea that they would rather not finish first because winning the group could see them face Brazil in the quarterfinals.
"What I've discussed with the players is that we must not waste any energy thinking whether it's better to be first or second in the group. We have to go out to play well in every game and to try and win every game. That's straightforward in my mind," he told FIFA TV.
Roberto Martinez was coyer speaking earlier in the week when he admitted he could change his entire team for the final group game. The two teams are coming off impressive performances over the weekend with Belgium beating Tunisia 5-2 and England thrashing Panama 6-1. That left them level on six points and identical 8-2 goal differences.
While the winner claims top spot, a draw takes it to the fair play tiebreaker based on discipline, which England currently has the edge in.
The game will have a definite Premier League flavor with the entire England squad home-based and 11 of the 23 Belgians also playing there. That means personal pride, in addition to national honor, is at stake.
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