With Colombia having not appeared at a World Cup Finals since 1994, people might be forgiven for overlooking them this time around.
However, being ranked 5th in the FIFA rankings and with the vast array of attacking talent at their disposal, Colombia have every chance of being this year’s surprise package.
Colombia finished 2nd in their CONMEBOL qualifying phase, only to Argentina. A lot of credit must go to José Pékerman who has managed to find a system to facilitate his attacking talent and allow the team to play exciting football. The team picked up impressive results during qualifying, most notably a 4-0 win vs Uruguay and a 3-1 win away at Chile.Since the campaign ended they have also recorded an impressive 2-0 win away at Belgium.
Argentinian coach José Pékerman has named his 30 man preliminary squad but is leaving until the very last minute to name his final 23 man squad. This looks to be to test the fitness of Radamel Falcao. The full squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Santa Fe).
Defenders: Mario Yepes (Atalanta), Aquivaldo Mosquera (America, Mexico), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo), Amaranto Perea (Cruz Azul), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Pablo Armero (West Ham).
Midfielders: Carlos Sanchez (Elche), Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Elkin Soto (Mainz), Aldo Leao Ramirez (Morelia), Juan Fernando Quintero (Porto), Víctor Ibarbo (Cagliari), James Rodriguez (Monaco), Macnelly Torres (Al Shabab), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Fiorentina), Edwin Valencia (Fluminense), Alexander Mejia (Atletico Nacional).
Forwards: Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Adrian Ramos (Hertha Berlin), Luis Fernando Muriel (Udinese), Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate)
Radamel Falcao: Though it is not yet certain that he will feature at this year’s world cup after suffering a knee ligament injury back in January, he is Colombia’s talisman. The star striker scored 7 goals in the qualification campaign and managed 11 goals in 19 appearances this season for Monaco before his injury. Without Falcao it would be hard to see Colombia fulfilling their full potential this time around.
Jackson Martinez: Likely to be Falcao’s strike partner, Martinez has had a fantastic season for FC Porto, scoring 29 goals in 51 appearances this season. Martinez’s pace and power make him a real handful for defenders and one of the hottest properties in world football at the moment. A good world cup could be key to securing a move to one of Europe’s big guns.
James Rodriguez: After joining AS Monaco for €45 million, Rodriguez has had a lot of hype to live up to but has excelled at the French club. He managed to contribute 10 goals and 12 assists in 33 appearances for Monaco in the 13/14 season. This sort of contribution for his national side could set them on their way for a memorable campaign.
Likely Line Up
Throughout Colombia’s qualifying campaign which saw them finish 2nd, they played with a 4-2-2-2 formation. Expect them to start like this again. With the pace and power of Martinez and Falcao up front, with the creative genius and power of James Rodriguez sat behind them there is always a goal threat from Colombia. The added steel of Guarin in central midfield breaking up play and driving forwards is also a worry to any potential opposition. The only thing which stops Colombia from being the real deal in this tournament is the defence. It is not world class at its best and there is very little in terms of strength in depth. This is likely to be Colombia’s downfall.
Colombia face a relatively tricky group featuring Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan but should come out on top spot. This would put them against the runners of Group D, likely to be England, Italy or Uruguay. I think Colombia should struggle to overcome any of these teams and will most likely exit in the Round of 16.