The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Colombia

Colombia National Team

Colombia

Los Cafeteros

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Colombia

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 7-6-5
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 16th
World Cup 2014 Finish – Quarter Finals (2-1 loss to Brazil)
Russia 2018 Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombi, Japan)
Formation – 4-2-3-1 (variable)
Strengths – Experience, Attacking play, defensive block
Weaknesses – Consistency, left back defense,
Major Threats – James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao Garcia

After a historic run in the World Cup in 2014, Colombia are looking for more in Russia. Albeit they went into unchartered waters when they faced Brazil in that tournament, the feeling of what might have been could have left Los Cafeteros with a desire for more.
This Colombia side will have lots more competition in the field positions. If you were to look at this side, they do seem formidable to face, but their issues of continuity and rhythm can make them extremely suspect and vulnerable.

This time around, Colombia have a great deal of expectations and a tougher road ahead if they want to duplicate their effort in Brazil. Compared to 2014, 11 of the players that were on the squad return while some positions have changed drastically and point towards a bright future for José Pekerman’s men.

Are you a fan of Los Cafeteros or just a casual admirer? Well, they have two of the sharper kits in the World Cup as their retro home kit opens eyes, but the second Colombia jersey will captivate many as their tribute to the working class is one of the must-have away kits of the tournament. Remember to buy them before the tournament.

Realistic Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

Realistic expectations for the FCF are set in a return trip to the quarterfinals, although England or Belgium might have something to say about that. That being said, if Colombia are on their best form they could beat either one of those teams. If they do not, it would be deemed as a disappointment. Not getting out of the group stage would be seen as catastrophic.


DEFENSE:

As a defensive block, Colombia are rather solid as they have a great deal of protection with Carlos Sanchez helps in front of a backline that will be, without a doubt, Colombia’s partnership for the future. We will talk about Sanchez and co. later on. Spurs Davinson Sanchez and FC Barcelona’s Yerry Mina will offer size, power and lots of skill when Colombia play out of the back. Davinson has proven to be one of the silkiest and most promising center backs in Europe. Mina has had to endure his knocks at Barcelona and life adapting to European football has been a difficult one after his ballyhooed move from Palmeiras.

AC Milan’s Cristian Zapata is a World Cup veteran who can offer some competition and depth along with Pachuca’s Oscar Murillo. Zapata has not played a great deal and Murillo struggled a bit with Pachuca as they have been mired in mediocrity the past few seasons in Liga MX after they won the CONCACAF Champions League in 2017.

If there are two questions marks in the back, it would have to be at left back and in goal.

Frank Fabra, like many other Colombian players have done with their fans, has made Boca Juniors fans fall in love with him. At left back he has given the Xeneize fans their dose of offensive thrills and defensive spills. While he does have the velocity and ability to create significant play down the left wing, it is his defensive backtracking that could have opponents salivating at their prospects.

Step in Yohan Mujica, who could be the man that steps into that starting role when they begin play in the World Cup. Mujica played a vital role in March’s friendly matches where he went from a rather anonymous player to an individual who could make it to the final list of 23.

In goal, the good news for David Ospina was that his performance in the 2014 World Cup helped him move from Nice to Arsenal- that was the good news. The bad news was that ever since he’s arrived in North London, he’s been Petr Cech’s understudy. The good news for Ospina is that this lack of playing time has not affected him in terms of losing his starting job with the national team. That also happens to be the bad news as Colombia’s current crop of goalkeepers have left a great deal to be desired. No one has truly been able to challenge him for the starting position.

Ospina still has tremendous reflexes and can save his team in crucial moments, but there are still deficiencies when he comes out on crosses and in set pieces that leave him extremely exposed.

MIDFIELD

Midfield is where Colombia begin to make a difference. This is the sector where things either tend to make this team one that has the potential of semifinal glory or first round shame. James Rodriguez will surely be seen as the man that makes things happen for Colombia offensively. Cuardrado will be the speedster down the wing who will make differences in his sector. However, the most important midfielder for Colombia will be Carlos Sanchez. His presence and combative nature make him a stalwart in the middle. His presence is the most important aspect of Colombia defensively. If he is on the pitch, it allows James Rodriguez to somewhat shirk his responsibilities dropping back.

James will count on a revived Juan Fernando Quintero whose move to River Plate resurrected what was one a career that was mired in uncertainty. If Quintero is on his game, he will take a great deal of strain off of James. His ability to play down the right or in a more central role can take up more marks and generate more space for the Bayern Munich playmaker.

Quintero’s renaissance leads to the end of the road for Boca Juniors Edwin Cardona. The former Nacional and Monterrey man suffered with fitness issues as well a controversial reaction in the match against South Korea where he made a racially insensitive gesture towards an opponent back in November. His behavior and his inability to have any continuity due to injuries have been the biggest player who has all the tools that would have made him a superstar at the international level.

James Rodriguez

Bond, James Rodriguez.

STRIKERS

Colombia have been stocked with forwards for years now and this World Cup cycle is no different. Radamel Falcao’s return is going to make this squad that much better while 2014 veterans Carlos Bacca and Luis Muriel will offer depth to the position. Also look at Miguel Angel Borja as a great option if the team does need a forward to attack behind Falcao and take advtantage of space, the 2016 South American Player of the Year will be a welcome addition to this squad.

GAME by GAME (v Japan, v Poland, v Senegal)

How They will Fare Against Japan
In 2014, Colombia faced Samurai Blue, James Rodriguez began to etch himself into the collective memory of the casual football fan as he helped carve a Japanese defense that was unable to find answers for the then-Monaco man. While Colombia come into this World Cup with more stability, Japan do not have that same fortune as they are bringing in a new coach and the team will have very little time to adapt to him.
Prediction: Colombia should be on good footing going into their second match after an opening win.

How They Will Fare Against Poland
Colombia will have arguably their biggest test of the group stage in this encounter. This match will be the difference maker for Colombia being in either first or second place in this group. This would be key as the winner of this group would end up crossing with either England or Belgium in the second round.
Prediction: Colombia win in tight fashion.

How they Will Fare Against Senegal
African teams tend to be a mystery as to what they may hold for Colombia. Although I know that a player like Sadio Mane will cause this team trouble defensively. This is when you will like to see players like Santiago Arias step up as well as someone like Wilmar Barrios, who has both the technique and the presence to be vital in that type of encounter.
Prediction: Colombia win

Jose Pekerman

BARRANQUILLA, COLOMBIA – MARCH 29: Jose Nestor Pekerman coach of Colombia gestures during a match between Colombia and Ecuador as part of FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifiers at Roberto Melendez Stadium on March 29, 2016 in Barranquilla, Colombia. (Photo by Gal Schweizer/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Here’s the likely Colombian Roster for Russia 2018
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Ospina, Camilo Vargas, Ivan Arboleda

DEFENDERS (8): Santiago Arias, Jefferson Lerma, Frank Fabra, Yohan Mojica, Yerry Mina, Davinson Sánchez, Cristian Zapata, Oscar Murillo

MIDFIELDERS (8): Abel Aguilar, Carlos Sánchez, Matheus Uribe, Wilmar Barrios, Juan Fernando Quintero, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, James Rodriguez, Jose Izquierdo

FORWARDS (4): Radamel Falcao, Carlos Bacca, Luis Muriel, Miguel Borja

Piece by Juan Arango, the fabulous purveyor of all things football and rugby. Master of Latin American football. Lord of Los Cafeteros wisdom. You’ll hear his voice around as Contributor at SportsMax TV/ The Guardian/ Al-Jazeera or in Broadcast Commentary at University of Miami or hosting the Beyond The Pitch podcast. He also schools the web on the beautiful game at Twitter (@JuanG_Arango), Facebook (JuanGArangoFut) and YouTube (The Normal Juan)

 

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