Alberto Zaccheroni’s side have endured a disappointing tournament so far, having taken just one point from games against Ivory Coast and Greece.
Those below-par results mean that Japan require all three points on Tuesday against a Colombia team that have caught the eye with two wins from two in Brazil.
But even victory at Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba may not be enough for Japan, who will also be dependent on the outcome of the clash between Greece and Ivory Coast.
A win for Japan and a Greece triumph will see Zaccheroni’s men through, as will a victory by a two-goal margin against Colombia and a draw in the other game.
Yet it is difficult to envisage either of those scenarios coming to pass considering the superb form that Colombia have produced up to this point.
Indeed, Colombia have been scintillating under the guidance of Argentine coach Jose Pekerman and need just a draw to seal top spot in the group.
Winning the group, though, could prove to be a poisoned chalice for Colombia, with Italy or Uruguay their probable opponents in the last 16, given Costa Rica’s unexpected rise to the top of Group D.
However, Colombia – inspired by dynamic playmaker James Rodriguez – are unlikely to fear any team in the competition and should be heavy favourites to claim all three points and knock Japan out.
Pekerman may opt to rest midfielder Carlos Sanchez, who heads into the contest with a booking to his name.
For Japan, captain Makoto Hasebe and defenders Maya Yoshida and Masato Morishige are walking the disciplinary tightrope with a caution apiece.
Japan’s only goal of the tournament so far came in the 2-1 defeat to Ivory Coast and their 0-0 draw with Greece featured little to excite the fans.
Zaccheroni has conceded that he has been frustrated by Japan’s lack of attacking prowess, expressing hope that his players will improve as a force in front of goal as they aim to keep their hopes alive.
“We haven’t had enough speed in our play and it’s as though the players have been playing with the brakes on,” said Zaccheroni.
“The problem is probably mental.
“We’re not satisfied with our performances so far. This team has given lots of joy and satisfaction in previous matches over the past four years so I’m hoping we can show that good part of our football against Colombia.”