Maya Yoshida tonight faces a battle to stay in the World Cup as Japan take on Group C leaders Colombia.
The Asian champions face early elimination from the tournament in Brazil after failing to live up to expectations in their opening two games.
Japan first conceded a lead to lose to Ivory Coast in their Group C opener and then played out a drab goalless draw with Greece.
Saints defender Yoshida and his Japanese teammates now head into their final group match against already-qualified Colombia in Cuiaba needing to win while hoping Ivory Coast slip up in their simultaneous clash with the Greeks.
"We haven't had enough speed in our play and it's as though the players have been playing with the brakes on," said Japan manager Alberto 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."
Colombia top the group with six points from their opening two games while Ivory Coast have three.
Japan and Greece have a point apiece, with Zaccheroni's men boasting the superior goal difference.
Yet while Japan may hope that Colombia ease up with their place in the last 16 assured, the South American side will want to lay down a further marker of their abilities.
Colombia, back at the World Cup for the first time since 1998, struck three times against Greece and impressed again in their 2-1 defeat of Ivory Coast.
That has carried them into the knockout phase for the first time since 1990 and the world's eighth-ranked side want to continue the momentum.
Forward James Rodriguez, who has scored in both games so far, said: "Why can't we be the revelation of the tournament? I hope we will be."