After disappointment in their opening match, Colombia have a solid shot at advancing to the next round on the final day of group play. Colombia start the day in third place in Group H, and in full control of their own destiny. If they defeat Senegal, they are through. Anything but that, and there’s a chance Colombia miss out via tiebreaker, or even miss out on the next round altogether.
Group H Standings
All Colombia have to do is defeat Senegal in their final match and they are through to the next round. If they draw, things get murky between this game and the Japan-Poland match occurring simultaneously. If Colombia and Senegal draw, Los Cafeteros can only advance if Poland defeats Japan. Because Colombia scored three goals in their win over Poland, they have the edge in goal differential over Senegal and Japan. The tiebreaker is so massive that not only will Colombia advance if they draw and Japan lose, they’ll win the group.
If that happens, or if Colombia defeat Senegal and finish on top, they’ll be paired up with the runners-up from Group G. Unfortunately for Colombia, Group G is going to advance two teams that have looked as good as any in Russia. England and Belgium will battle it out for the top spot in the group Thursday morning, and the runner-up will be matched against the Group H winner.
Colombia has already shown resiliency in this tournament, nearly taking a 10-man point from Japan and bouncing back from that loss to put three goals on Poland. They’re slowly returning to full strength, as James Rodriguez finally started for the team against Poland. Carlos Sanchez missed that game with his red card suspension, but he should return to the starting lineup against Senegal.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman got the result he needed against Poland, but was determined to keep his team in check moving forward.
“..We’re not going to go crazy, mentally we’re in a good place but we need to continue to improve because we are ambitious and we want to continue in this World Cup as we hoped. We are going to go forward with faith,” he told reporters earlier this week.
Regardless of Colombia’s finish in this round, it’s been a tough start for Central and South American teams at the World Cup. Argentina was pushed to the final minutes, Mexico was blown out and still advanced, and lesser teams like Panama and Costa Rica have long seen their chariots turned to pumpkins. Colombia are hoping to avoid a similar fate, but face a tough matchup in the size and speed of Senegal.
If Colombia can indeed get the result and win the group, they’ve got some big help from the bracket. Colombia will play the winner of Sweden-Switzerland, a match that could’ve easily featured defending champions Germany. After that, the four teams remaining on that side of the bracket could be one of Russia, Spain, Denmark, or Croatia. It’s certainly the easier side of the bracket, and Colombia has a very real shot at making a deep run if they can get by Senegal.