Even in the absence of star striker Radamel Falcao, Colombia have still managed to be successful so far at this year’s World Cup. And even though they face the host nation Brazil in the quarterfinals, that might just be set to continue.
Playmaker James Rodriguez has truly announced himself as one of the world’s best in his position and the rest of the team works brilliantly in unison around him. Jose Pekerman has constructed an effective and exciting team, which allows the brightest of his stars to shine as such.
Heading into the game with Brazil, Colombia actually match up very well against their more glamorous rivals. On paper, the Brazil defense looks like it could be the strongest part of their team, but in reality, it’s been a shambles so far. Dani Alves and Marcelo are exciting when attacking but flawed on the defensive end, and David Luiz is pretty much the same.
For a center-back, Luiz is exceptional when in possession, but in terms of defensive positioning and awareness he’s an accident waiting to happen. The team captain, Thiago Silva, keeps things together somewhat on the defensive end, but he can only do so much, even as brilliant as he is.
The Colombia team have the option of attacking through their great pace out wide with Juan Cuadrado and Victor Ibarbo, and they would be wise to do exactly that up against Alves and Marcelo. The Colombia full backs, Pablo Armero and Juan Zuniga, like to get forward also and that too should be encouraged in this game.
When the full backs do attack, there’s not much chance of either Neymar or Hulk tracking them back, and they’ll be free to double up with the wingers on the full backs whenever they do break forward. Brazil can either allow that to happen or instruct Luiz Gustavo to provide help when the double teams do occur — of course, that opens up more space centrally for Rodriguez, so it’s pick your poison really.
Brazil themselves can be deadly in attack, but they need to show that more consistently than they have done so far. They have too many players who blow hot and cold too often, like Hulk, Oscar and Fred. Fred has had an appalling tournament so far, and Brazil have virtually been playing with 10 men at times.
An area of the Los Cafeteros team that Brazil could take of advantage of is the center-backs, with Mario Yepes and Cristian Zapata not being the most mobile of defenders. Unfortunately for Brazil, nobody can be less mobile than Fred has been so far, so the likelihood of Colombia suffering in that area is small unless there is a change in the Brazil lineup.
The man Brazil will be concentrating on mostly will obviously be Rodriguez, but there are other threats that Brazil need to concern themselves with too. Playing up to their own potential would be a good start, and if they do that then they are a match for anybody in the tournament.
But if they continue to play as they have been doing, then sooner or later they are going to come unstuck, and potentially it could be against Colombia given some of the favorable match-ups that they have at this point in time.