Poland will take on Colombia at the Kazan Arena on Sunday, knowing a defeat for either of these sides could shatter their hopes of qualifying into the Round of 16.

In what would be one of the most important fixtures in this year’s FIFA World Cup, Poland lock horns with Colombia in a crucial Group H tie which will see two of the biggest teams in the group fight for their survival in the competition. Both of these sides have tasted surprising defeat in the opening fixtures and will be looking to reignite their World Cup hopes with a win at the Kazan Arena on Sunday.

Poland, who were initialled deemed as one the dark horses going into this tournament suffered a defeat against Senegal, leaving their World Cup hopes hanging in the balance. Thiago Cionek’s own goal and M’Baye Niang’s second-half strike made sure Grzegorz Krychowiak’s 86th-minute goal was only as a consolation for a Polish side who lacked intent and ideas going forward throughout the course of the match.

Colombia, on the other hand, were also stuck at the gates during their opener against Japan. Los Cafeteros suffered a shocking 2:1 defeat thanks to goals from Shinji Kagawa and Yuya Osako, both of whom were instrumental as the Blue Samurais outclassed a hapless Colombia. However, Jose Pekerman’s side will look to bounce back to form, knowing a defeat could diminish their hopes of doing well in this World Cup.

This will be the first competitive meeting between the two sides with the South Americans winning the most recent friendly 2:1 in Chorzow back in 2006. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we run the rule over these two sides as they look to wrestle each other out of the competition this weekend.

Team News and tactics

Poland

Adam Nawalka will have a lot of homework to do, as Poland were completely horrendous in their opening fixture versus Senegal. Two wingers failing to provide service to Robert Lewandowski up front and a midfield clearly lacking desire and identity, the Biało-czerwoni were outclassed in almost every aspect of the game by their African counterparts and it calls for some heavy measures if they are to keep their World Cup hopes alive this weekend.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 19: Mbaye Niang of Senegal is challenged by Jakub Blaszczykowski of Poland during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group H match between Poland and Senegal at Spartak Stadium on June 19, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Experienced winger Jakub Blaszczykowski will be a key outlet for Poland this weekend. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Poland are likely to make a few changes to the side that lost to Senegal with Adam Nawalka highly poised to switch to a three-man backline, following the continued absence of Kamil Glik.

The defensive stalwart of AS Monaco has returned to full training but remains a doubt for Sunday’s game, meaning we can expect Thiago Cionek to partner alongside Michal Pazdan and Jan Bednarek in the said three at the back defensive line. Elsewhere, Lukasz Piszczek and Maciej Rybus will be deployed as wingbacks but are highly expected to drop deep in order to support the central defenders in the defensive phases.

In midfield, Nawalka will likely dump Karol Linetty from the starting eleven, paving the way for the exciting Dawid Kownacki, who is expected to play much further forward. Piotr Zielinski will be pushed back into the central midfield position and will play alongside Grzegorz Krychowiak. The Napoli playmaker failed to make a difference against the Senegalese defence but his services will be much more crucial in a deeper position.

The role of wider players in Jakub Blaszczykowski and Dawid Kownacki will also be important as they look to feed off star striker Robert Lewandowski in the final third. Despite all his outstanding scoring record, the Bayern Munich superstar is yet to score in the FIFA World Cup, which might drive him this weekend as he once again carries the hope of nation against Colombia in a highly competitive encounter.

Predicted Lineups(3-4-3): Szczesny; Pazdan, Bednarek, Cionek; Piszczek, Krychowiak, Zielinski, Rybus; Kownacki, Lewandowski, Blaszczykowski

Colombia

Colombian head coach Jose Pekerman is also expected to make a few changes into his starting eleven. James Rodriguez will likely be fit to be included in the starting lineup, which will be a massive boost for Los Cafeteros. In addition, Juan Quintero, who scored the delightful freekick the other day, is highly expected to be rewarded with an opportunity against Poland.

Carrying the hopes of the nation. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Carrying the hopes of the nation. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

The defensive line, however, will remain the same with Santiago Arias, Davinson Sanchez, Oscar Murillo and Johan Mojica all retaining their place in the starting eleven. Meanwhile, David Ospina will start in goal for the South American giants.

Holding midfielder Carlos Sanchez is suspended after his red card against Japan. He is expected to be deputized by Wilmar Barrios, who will start alongside Jefferson Lerma in central midfield. In wider positions, the onus will be Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez to provide the attacking width. James, in particular, might be forced to play in a wider role due to Quintero’s incredible performance in the opening fixture.

Colombia’s attack will be led by veteran striker Radamel Falcao, who is still looking to find the back of the net in this edition of the FIFA World Cup.

Predicted Lineups (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Arias, Sanchez, Murillo, Mojica; Barrios, Lerma; Cuadrado, Quintero, James, Falcao.

Key Stats

  • Poland have lost seven of their past nine World Cup matches (W2), failing to score in six of those losses.
  • They have failed to keep a clean sheet in their past nine World Cup matches, since beating Portugal 1-0 in 1986.
  • Only once before have Colombia lost both of their opening two games in a World Cup tournament, doing so against Romania and the USA back in 1994.
  • None of Colombia’s 19 games at the World Cup have ended goalless.
  • Juan Quintero became the first Colombian player to score in two different World Cup tournaments in their opening defeat against Japan (2014 and 2018).

Players to Watch

James Rodriguez & Robert Lewandowski

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski will take some stopping (Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski will take some stopping (Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Two household names in world football, Bayern Munich’s attacking duo of James Rodrigez and Robert Lewandowski will remain the central feature in this highly anticipated clash between Poland and Colombia.

Even though there is still insecurity over James Rodriguez’s fitness going into this clash, the 26-year-old will look to wreak havoc in the Poland defence, which is already depreciated by the absence of Kamil Glik. His ability to carve out a defence could prove to be real problems for Lukasz Piszczek and co.

While James Rodriguez has been Colombia’s Golden Boy for many years now, Lewandowski has carried his nation throughout the qualifying stage to finally book them a ticket to Russia and is already regarded as one of the best strikers on the planet. Therefore, both of these attackers can prove to be fatal for either of the defences and it remains to be seen which Bayern attacker prevails as Poland lock horns with Colombia this weekend.

Prediction 

Colombia 2-0 Poland

Despite losing their first match against Japan, Colombia looked quite decent throughout the game following an early red card. And if they can further solidify their wobbly defence and let James Rodriguez play to his full potential, Los Cafeteros are huge favourites against Poland, who lack identity and were all over the place in their opening fixture against Senegal.

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