Senegal aim to take next step against Colombia
Group H: Senegal v Colombia: Live, RTE2/BBC 1 (KO 3.0)
Allowing a lead to twice slip from their grasp in their last World Cup game could come back to haunt Senegal when they face Colombia in a decisive Group H clash in Samara today.
The west Africans could have ensured qualification to the next phase in Russia in Sunday's second group match against Japan but are now on shaky ground after playing out a 2-2 draw, even if the permutations are still weighted in their favour.
Today, as the group phase draws to a close, Senegal only need a draw to advance but victory for Colombia will put them into the next round instead, leaving Senegal eliminated if Japan avoid defeat against Poland in Volgograd at the same time. Colombia could also advance with a draw, but only if Japan lose.
Japan and Senegal head the group on four points each with Colombia one behind after rebounding with a 3-0 thumping of the now-eliminated Poland in Kazan on Sunday.
It was an emphatic reaffirmation of their potential after 10-man Colombia, quarter-finalists in Brazil four years ago, had suffered an upset defeat in their opening game to Japan.
The likes of Falcao and Juan Cuadrado underlined the quality in a team that welcomed back James Rodriguez, top scorer at the last World Cup, to a leading role after starting him from the bench against Japan.
"The team played as a unit and the football emerged from this unity. It led to the goals and now we have a good position in this World Cup," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said after the victory.
Senegal will be concerned by the potential of letting slip a favourable position, after kicking off the tournament with a 2-0 win over Poland and then being in command against Japan, only to prove unable to secure all the points.
"We still have our destiny in our own hands," insisted defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but team-mate Alfred Ndiaye warned of a hard task ahead.
"Colombia's style of play is similar to ours, very physical, moving forward quickly. We know that we must not lose this game. We're aware that we will have to give everything to qualify," Ndiaye said.
Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado said that Senegal will be a mighty adversary.
"We have to be careful because they are a great team. Not only do they run - they're also very good technically," Cuadrado said.
He was tight-lipped about what team Argentine-born coach Pekerman would field against Senegal.
"The last (few) days we have been working to see what is the best plan to go and find the best result," said Cuadrado, who scored in the 3-0 win over Poland on Sunday.
Keeper David Ospina did not show any "complications" from pain in his right foot incurred in the demolition of Poland, the Colombian FA said in a statement late on Monday.
Midfielder Abel Aguilar also did recovery work but was set to have an examination on a painful left adductor on Tuesday, an injury which forced him out of Sunday's match after 30 minutes.