Poland and Colombia on the brink of shock exit and other talking points heading into World Cup showdown

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Club teammates James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski will face off at the World Cup.

Colombia and Poland head into their crunch Group H clash at the World Cup on Sunday having both lost their opening games of the tournament.

Their identical 2-1 losses to Japan and Senegal respectively means one of these two sides could be knocked out depending on Sunday’s result; neither can afford a loss.

Here are three talking points ahead of the game.

GROUP FAVOURITES FACING EARLY EXIT

When the draw was made for this group, everyone expected Colombia and Poland to get through to the knockout stages. The match between the two was thought to be the one that would determine who won the group.

Yet both lost their opening games, and now face each other with their World Cup campaigns on the line. If Japan-Senegal ends in a draw in the earlier  game of the day, then a loss here will be fatal to the defeated side’s hopes of qualifying for the round of 16.

A draw may actually suit both sides, even if it leaves them both with only a point apiece heading into their final games. That would likely mean a win in their respective last games would be enough to qualify, although goal difference may come into play and still eliminate one or both of them.

It’s unlikely that either manager is setting his side out for anything less than a win, especially as Senegal and Japan have proven they will not be easy games for the two more fancied sides. But both Colombia and Poland will likely take the scenario of knowing a win in their final game all but guarantees qualification.

Poland are in a tough spot in the group, as are Colombia.

Poland are in a tough spot in the group, as are Colombia.

PLENTY OF POSITIVES FOR COLOMBIA

Colombia bossed the first half of their game against Japan despite being a man down after Carlos Sanchez’s early red card. Although they ultimately ended up losing, there were plenty of positives to take from the display, and they’re likely going into this game with more confidence than their opponents.

They should also be buoyed by the probable return to full fitness of talisman James Rodriguez, who was only selected as a substitute in the previous game due to an injury.

He’ll likely come in for Jose Izquierdo, and an attack of Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, and their goalscoring hero from the first game, Juan Quintero, playing in support of Radamel Falcao certainly looks formidable.

James will be able to do what his fellow playmakers weren’t quite against Japan – get the best out of Falcao. The forward endured a tough game in the opener, displaying trademark work ethic and keeping the Japanese defence honest but never quite sparking into life.

On the other hand, Poland have less to be positive about reflecting upon their opening game. They struggled to break Senegal down and were porous defensively. They have to do much more to improve than their opponents.

Colombia could take the positives from their opening game.

Colombia could take the positives from their opening game.

LEWANDOWSKI NEEDS TO STEP UP

Robert Lewandowski was the top scorer in European qualifying for the World Cup. But he was marshalled well by Senegal’s defence in Poland’s first game, and failed to find a genuine chance on goal.

But given his status as Poland’s best player and captain, he has to do more. He does thrive best on good service, but this is a striker capable of creating chances for himself, or at the very least unleashing some fierce long-range strikes.

But none of those qualities were on show against Senegal, bar the wonderful save he brought out of Senegal stopper Khadim N’Diaye from a free-kick early in the second half. If he has another game like that against Colombia, Poland can say good-bye to their chances of progressing further in Russia.

Colombia’s defence will be no different to Senegal’s. Davinson Sanchez had a shaky game against Japan, but emerged with some credit, while Oscar Murillo was a towering presence at the back. The challenge of dealing with Lewandowski is one both will relish.

Lewandowski can have an inspirational effect on the rest of his side, but not if he can’t improve on his performance from Poland’s opener. The Bayern Munich striker will need to rise to the occasion. His team need him to, desperately.

Robert Lewandowski couldn't hit the heights for Poland into their opener.

Robert Lewandowski couldn’t hit the heights for Poland into their opener.

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Belgium will rest and rotate against England, says Roberto Martinez

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Belgium boss Roberto Martinez praised Romelu Lukaku for his “clinical” finishing in the 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia but then dropped a big hint that he would be rested for the Group G decider against England.

The Manchester United striker scored twice before limping off in the 59th minute, with Eden Hazard also getting a brace and Michy Batshuayi claiming the fifth.

Dylan Bronn gave Tunisia brief hope with a first-half header but Wahbi Khazri’s stoppage-time strike was only a consolation.

England needed a goal in added time to beat Tunisia in their opening game but the Red Devils had no such worries, tearing into the North African side from the start and creating chances at will.

They had 23 shots, 12 on target, and Batshuayi should have scored a hat-trick after coming on for Hazard with 20 minutes to play.

Speaking after the game, Martinez explained that Lukaku injured an ankle ligament, while Hazard strained his calf and Dries Mertens also hurt his ankle.

Asked if this meant there would be changes for the game against England in Kaliningrad on Thursday, Martinez said: “The answer is very clear: if we had seven days to prepare it would be the same starting XI.

“In international football, the reality now is we have qualified. There will be opportunities to give minutes to other players. There will be major changes against England.”

Lukaku’s first-half brace means he is tied with Ronaldo as the tournament’s top scorer on four goals. After scoring 27 times in his first season at Old Trafford, he has now reached 40 goals for Belgium.

After some criticism of his work-rate in the first game against Panama, not least from Hazard, Lukaku was superb at the Spartak Stadium and his manager was impressed.

“(Romelu) will try to score as many goals as he can but not at all costs,” he said. “I thought he was incisive, in the right position, in a confident mood. In front of goal he was as clinical as you might expect.”

The former Wigan and Everton boss was understandably pleased with the whole team’s showing, too, but said they can play even better.

“This was a game that suited our style, you have to give credit to Tunisia,” he said. “They wanted to win from the beginning, press high up. The credit that we deserve is that we took those opportunities well. We are still growing. With a two-goal lead we should have controlled the game a little bit better.”

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Mexico player ratings as Carlos Vela stars in 2-1 win over South Korea to top Group F

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Mexico made it two wins in two to top Group F after a 2-1 win over South Korea at the World Cup.

Carlos Vela scored the opener at the Rostov Arena from the spot in the 26th minute before playing in Javier Hernandez for Mexico’s second in the 66th minute.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min pulled on back for the Koreans late on with a stunning strike from range.

Here, we look at how the Mexican players performed.

STARTING XI (4-2-3-1)

Guillermo Ochoa – Made a decent save from a corner. Came off his line well to thwart Son who had run in behind. Had a couple of other routine saves to make. Helpless against Son’s strike. 7

Edson Alvarez – Had a tough time dealing with Korea’s wing wizard Hwang Hee-chan but coped well and grew into the role as the game went on. Had more touches than anyone else. 6

Carlos Salcedo – Kept close tabs on Son and made a vital block to deny the Spurs man. Was on hand to make another block in the second half. Was good on the ball and made the most passes as well as clearances. 7

Hector Moreno – Stood firm in central defence alongside Salcedo and went about his business with minimum fuss. Was kept busy by Son’s runs in behind and blocked the Korean’s shot on one occasion. 6

Jesus Gallardo – Had a decent performance at left-back. Perhaps should’ve done better when Jae-Sung cut inside and laid the ball off for Son to score a beauty. 5

Hector Herrera – One rash challenge aside, he was excellent with his tackling in midfield and helped Mexico dominate that area of the pitch. Was accurate with all five of his long passes. 6

Andres Guardado – Buzzed about in midfield and it was his cross that won the penalty for hand ball. Had a couple of good efforts at goal and led by example on his 150th cap. 7

Miguel Layun – Had an effort tipped over brilliantly by the Korea keeper. Was good with his delivery from the right and created a couple of fine chances. 6

Carlos Vela – Calmly tucked away the penalty to open the scoring. Set up Layun for a great chance with a good run and square pass. Provided the assist for the second goal. Was the chief creator as well and was impressive with his dribbling. 8

Hirving Lozano – Always a threat going forward, weaving his way past defenders, but was impressive defensively as well. Got back quickly and threw himself in front of a shot from Lee Yong. Was fouled repeatedly and had a few attempts at goal. 7

Javier Hernandez – Was largely kept quiet and was incredibly selfish when he refused to play in Layun who was breaking clear on the right. Showed good composure to cut in and score the second. 6

Carlos Vela scored Mexico's opener.

Carlos Vela scored Mexico’s opener.

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Rafael Marquez – Came on for Guardado in the 68th minute. A horrendous pass back to the keeper nearly led to a goal for Korea. Otherwise, helped see the game out. 5

Jesus Manuel Corona – Was brought on for Lozano in the 71st minute who picked up a knock. Didn’t really impact the game and was dispossessed a couple of times. 5

Giovani dos Santos – Replaced Vela in the closing stages and didn’t have time to leave an impression. N/A

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