Japan vs Colombia World Cup 2014 match preview: Alberto Zaccheroni's side have a chance to take the next step

Asian sides have not qualified for the knockout stages since they hosted in 2002

In a World Cup where discussion has been dominated by the success of the Americas and the struggles of Europe, the collectively poor results of Asian sides has largely been overlooked. It has also been largely overlooked that Japan have failed to take the next step over the past decade.

Just as football has been USA’s sport of the future for the past 40 years, it has felt like the Japanese have been a coming force for the past 20.

The infrastructure is in place, the resources are there, but the true spark to ignite them has not yet followed.

This World Cup has almost summed it up. The performances of Alberto Zaccheroni’s side have been perfectly respectable, but still haven’t lifted them to the results required.

Against Ivory Coast, they were undone by individual force. Against Greece, they lacked the liveliness to unravel 10 men.

It leaves them on the brink of elimination, and the Asian federation potentially without any last-16 teams for the second time since the supposedly landmark Japan-Korea World Cup in 2002.

Australia are already out, Korea need a miracle, and Iran just don’t seem to have sufficient goals.

As such, there is an argument that Japan’s meeting with Colombia is Asia’s real chance. Although Zaccheroni’s team only have a point, and Greece and Ivory Coast play in a game that will at least leave one of them on four, the fact the Japanese meet a Colombian team virtually assured of top spot could work in their favour.

Similarly, there is the reality that Greece’s dour nature doesn’t exactly facilitate much other than tight draws.

That could yet see this group tilt. Japan need to turn around their recent fortunes. Their future could be greatly helped by it.

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