Falcao v Lewandoski with both on the brink
After missing out on the World Cup four years ago because of an injury, Radamel Falcao is now in danger of being out of title contention after only two matches at the sport's marquee tournament.
Colombia's all-time leading scorer and his team-mates are taking on Poland's all-time leading scorer, Robert Lewandowski, and his team-mates in a tense contest tomorrow night.
Both teams know a defeat would likely end their hopes of advancing to the knockout round. Both teams were disappointing in their opening games. Colombia, down to 10 men, were upset 2-1 by Japan and Poland lost to Senegal by the same score in Group H.
"It will be like a final. Each team will battle hard to keep the ball, and will close down the space for their opponents to operate in," Falcao said.
"Perhaps we won't make as many mistakes as we did before, because we all know this is a match that will determine who will continue in the World Cup."
Back in 2014, Falcao was ruled out of what was expected to be his first World Cup after injuring his knee.
Being forced to watch his countrymen reach the quarter-finals without him was heartbreaking for the Monaco striker, who did everything this season to arrive in Russia in peak physical form.
Falcao was a big asset for Monaco this season, scoring 24 goals in 36 matches, but he also sat out several matches to make sure a minor thigh problem did not become more serious.
The 32-year-old forward's aim to lead the Cafeteros to a great start got off to a bad start. Colombia conceded a penalty and was a man down within three minutes after Carlos Sanchez received a red card.
Falcao subsequently found himself isolated up front, and had limited opportunities.
"We are taking from that match what makes us stronger," Falcao said.
"It was not easy to play in these conditions. And, overall in the first half, we showed character and ambition. I think the simple fact of still being alive in the World Cup gives us the emotional drive for our two remaining matches."
Like Falcao, Poland's top striker Lewandowski arrived in Russia with a point to prove following his mediocre display at the 2016 Euros.
In excellent striking form with Bayern Munich - he scored 41 goals in 48 matches - Lewandowski is looking to find that clinical edge in Russia.
"I think we didn't take enough risks (against Senegal)," the imposing forward said. "Above all, we didn't live up to our potential. Against Colombia ... We will play differently and better than today."
Poland v Colombia
Where: Kazan Arena
When: 7.0, tomorrow, live RTé2 and ITV
Key stats: l Poland have never made it to the knockout rounds after conceding defeat in the first match at a World Cup, so they will need to defy history to advance in Russia.
- Colombia coach Jose Pekerman will be tempted to rush James Rodriguez back into a starting role after he was eased in as a substitute against Japan.