For the second time in two World Cup tournaments, Japan and Colombia find themselves in the same group. This news is probably more of a comfort to fans of the South Americans, who will be fully aware that they brushed aside Japan during their clean sweep of Group C in Brazil. The 4-1 win was the final nail for the Japanese, who finished last in the pool despite still being a chance of qualifying had they won this match.
Japan's record against South American nations both at the World Cup and in general is quite poor, although their 11-14-28 W-D-L record is somewhat skewed thanks to a 0-3-18 record against Argentina and Brazil combined. Even so, they have never beaten Colombia in a football match, and will go into this one as definite outsiders considering the gulf in quality between the AFC and CONMEBOL federations.
Japan qualified first in their AFC group, yet are ranked at 61st in the FIFA official standings, while Colombia are 16th in spite of barely making it through the South American qualification phase. Remarkably, Colombia sit behind Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay as the sixth best nation from the region according to the rankings; this fact neatly sums up the likely gap on the pitch.
Surprisingly though, the South Americans aren't huge favourites in this match according to the top online sportsbooks and are a great value pick, both for this match and to reach the Round of 16. In this particular matchup, Colombia enter at -155, while you can get +262 for the draw. Japan are obviously favoured somewhat as they appear at +469 - in our opinion they could offer much more in terms of odds.
Our prediction for this match is a somewhat straight forward win for the Colombians. With talented attacking players like James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao available for selection, alongside a sturdy defence featuring Tottenham Hotspur's Davinson Sanchez, we are thinking the margin will be at least two goals, although we acknowledge that Japan too have good attacking options in Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda.
For that reason, we're predicting both teams to score, and going with a final result of 3-1 to the Colombian side.