KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - The crunch World Cup showdown between Poland and Colombia on Sunday could come down to which of club mates Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez is able find something close to their best form at the Kazan Arena.
United in Bayern Munich’s high-octane attack as “FC Hollywood” ran away with sixth successive Bundesliga title last season, Lewandowski and Rodriguez carry a large part of the World Cup hopes of their nations on their shoulders.
Those respective hopes suffered huge blows when Poland were beaten by Senegal and Colombia lost to Japan in the Group H openers and another defeat for either country is likely to be the end of their road in Russia.
Lewandowski is one of the most prolific strikers in the game and did more than anyone to get Poland to the World Cup with his 16 goals in qualifying, bolstering his already impressive strike rate of more than one goal every two games.
Against Senegal on Tuesday, however, he was able to manage a single shot on target - from a free kick - as the Africans successfully shackled him and isolated him from his team mates.
Colombia right back Santiago Arias said the South Americans were confident they could do something similar on Sunday.
“I think we have the players to deal with Lewandowski and all the Poland team,” he said on Saturday.
“We have to mark him man-to-man and be vigilant all the time.”
Lewandowski would surely love to have a player of the quality of Rodriguez providing him with ammunition but it is Colombia’s Radamel Falcao who is most likely to benefit if the attacking midfielder starts in Kazan.
Rodriguez was restricted by a calf injury to half an hour off the bench against Japan but Colombia coach Jose Pekerman gave a strong hint on Saturday that he would start against Poland.
Although less prolific than Lewandowski, Rodriguez has proved he can hit the net on the biggest stage with his six goals at the last World Cup in Brazil earning him the Golden Boot and a big money transfer to Real Madrid.
“This is the guy that is like the locomotive of their team,” said Poland midfielder Piotr Zielinski said of Rodriguez.
“He is the driving force so he can be very, very dangerous.”
Editing by Ed Osmond