World Cup Group H: Urgency is the word as both Colombia and Poland look to rebound on Match Day 2
Group H, as predicted, is the most open group in this year's World Cup. Any team can still progress. Columbia and Poland were the favourites. Los Cafeteros' run to the quarterfinal in Brazil dazzled everyone. Poland has quietly built a talented team around Robert Lewandowski. Then both lost their opening games.
Columbia stubbed their toe when kicking off their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 loss to Japan. Carlos Sanchez's handball in the box in the first five minutes put his side in a deep, deep hole, one deep for the converted penalty that put them down a goal, the other for the red card that put them down a man. Colombia managed to equalise before the half, but the numbers game prevailed; Japan won. Jose Pekerman's team can be proud of the effort they put in, despite losing, but pride won't get them further in the tournament.
Poland should be anything but proud. Adam Nawalka's side underperformed, to say the least. The Orly lost to Senegal 2-1 on Matchday 1, gifting the opposition two goals. Thiago Cionek scored an own goal while Gregory Krychowiak assisted M'baye Niang. Even talisman Lewandowski struggled.
But now is not the time to mourn. It is time to learn from mistakes and overcome. It will be the first time Columbia and Japan face each other in a competitive fixture. The last friendly occurred in 2006. Columbia won 2-1.
FIFA Ranking: 8th
Poland joined more well-known heavyweights by putting in an underwhelming first performance. The Orly were solid in qualifying and recent friendlies, but when the moment came, Poland choked under pressure. Changes are needed.
Nawalka might scrap the 4-2-3-1 for his preferred 3-4-3 as he did mid-game against Senegal. Jan Bednarek might come in as the third centre-back. Lukas Piszczek, despite all his experience, failed to impress. Kamil Glik has returned to full training but is still a doubt for the game. Hopefully, he can provide much-needed reinforcement at the back.
In midfield, Jakub Blaszczykowski might be dropped, too. The veteran had a bad outing at the Spartak Stadium. Karol Linetty is a possible replacement. Krychowiak and Pietr Zielinski must step up, moving balls quickly into the final third.
Speaking of the final third, Arkadiusz Milik had one of his worst games for Poland. He'll need to be better for Poland to win against Columbia. Dawid Kownacki has staked a claim for a position in the starting XI.
Lewandowski must also lead by example.
Many personnel changes are expected, along with a more aggressive approach.
FIFA Ranking: 16th
Unlike Poland, Colombia did not underperform on Matchday One. They missed star player James Rodriguez for more than a half and played 86 minutes with ten men. They were mature under duress. Los Cafeteros didn't even look like they missed a player in the first half. Fatigue took a toll after the break, however.
With Rodriguez back, Colombia will have belief. Not only because of his return, but the performance against Japan, too. One man that shouldn't be happy about his display against Japan is Davinson Sanchez. The Spurs defender put in an erratic performance. He must be in control against Lewandowski. With the other Sanchez suspended, Wilmar Barrios might come in.
The formation doesn't need altering. Juan Quintero, Juan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao can cause major problems for Poland.
Poland has lost seven of their last nine World Cup matches, failing to score in six. Columbia has scored in their last 19 World Cup games. Poland has not kept a clean sheet in their last nine. I can't see them cleaning up their mess, especially against a side like Colombia. James' return will provide a major boost. The South Americans will win this game 2-0, with Falcao and Rodriguez scoring.