Colombia – Group C – World Cup profile

A nation with as passionate fans as they come, Colombia reenter the World Cup for the first time since 1998 after an impressive qualifying campaign.

For the first time in recent memory Los Cafeteros have real strength in depth to call upon and a host of top-class players in their starting XI.

Although a lot of the pre-tournament build-up has focused on Radamel Falcao’s fitness, or lack of it, an unorthodox formation, team spirit and side full of talented players should be the real talking point.

Confirmed squad

Star man Falcao has been named in the preliminary 26-man squad for the tournament but faces a race to be fit in time for the opening game of the competition against Greece on June 14.

Beyond that the contingent possesses plenty of star quality, with a number of excellent options up front and in attacking midfield.

A lack of pace at the back will be something of a concern due to ageing centre-halves getting the nod, but all-in-all Colombia have an impressive group of players.

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragón (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Independiente Santa Fe).

Defenders: Mario Yepes (AC Milan), Cristián Zapata (AC Milan), Pablo Armero (West Ham, on loan from Napoli), Juan Camilo Zúñiga (Napoli), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Luis Amaranto Perea (Cruz Azul), Éder Álvarez Balanta (River Plate), Carlos Valdés (San Lorenzo).

Midfielders: Fredy Guarín (Inter Milan), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), Victor Ibarbo (Cagliari), James Rodriguez (Monaco), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Juan Fernando Quintero (Porto), Carlos Sánchez (Elche), Aldo Leão Ramirez (Morelia), Alexander Mejía (Atletico Nacional).

Forwards: Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Luis Fernando Muriel (Udinese), Jackson Martínez (Porto), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Adrián Ramos (Hertha Berlin), Teófilo Gutiérrez (River Plate).

Notable absentees

The Colombian squad has been trimmed back slightly with a number of players dropping out through injury, but there are no real absentees that will overly weaken the contingent.

Fluminense midfielder Edwin Valencia would most likely have made the final group, but had had to pull out. Others to drop out are America defender Aquivaldo Mosquera, Mainz midfielder Elkin Soto and Al Shabab midfielder Macnelly Torres.

Coach profile

José PékermanArgentine coach José Pékerman has a good standing in the game and is well liked in Colombia after steering them through the qualifying section with aplomb.

The 64-year-old took his homeland to the 2006 World Cup, but the Albiceleste were eliminated on penalties by Germany in the quarter-finals.

Pékerman had not worked for three years before taking the Colombia job in 2012, but his attacking tactical emphasis has seemingly got the best out of his side.

Formation / tactics

Pékerman has tweaked his formation at times but most commonly plays with four at the back in a customized 4-4-2 formation.

One of Colombia’s main strengths will be their speed and attacking prowess in wide areas, with James Rodríguez and Juan Cuadrado sure to make things difficult for Group C opposition.

The wingers are supported by forward-thinking full-backs; Pablo Armero on the left and either Juan Camilo Zúñiga or Santiago Arias on the right.

Although Zúñiga has the experience and standing given his age and role at Napoli, PSV Eindhoven up-and-coming star Arias has completed an excellent club season and will be in contention for a start.

Due to the attacking emphasis of the side, two more defensive-minded central midfielders usually get the nod.

Inter star Fredy Guarín’s penchant for striving into the opposition’s penalty box from the heart of midfield and willingness to dribble mean that his place in the side is under question, with more restrained options such as Abel Aguilar and Carlos Sánchez in the running instead.

In attack, Teófilo Gutiérrez has adopted a link-up role as the second striker and is a coach’s favourite.

The River Plate man laid on a glut of goals for Falcao in qualifying and the Colombian public will hope this pairing will continue in Brazil.

However, if the Monaco striker is only half fit, Pekerman would be advised to go with one of his excellent back-up options, with the team not overly weakened as a result.

Jackson Martínez looks likely to be next in line if Falcao is unavailable, but in Borussia Dortmund-bound Adrián Ramos and Carlos Bacca they have two more capable number nines.

Colombia’s defensive record in qualifying was excellent, but Pékerman will need to get his selection correct for this to continue.

Veteran Mario Yepes is the national captain, but there is a case to suggest that the 38-year-old would be best to make way for the more sprightly Cristián Zapata.

A very offensive starting XI, Colombia should put on a great spectacle this summer against other sides in Group C that will look to also attack.

Key player

James RodríguezJames Rodríguez – The Monaco winger has just completed a fantastic first season in France and finished the campaign with the most assists in Ligue 1 (12).

The former Porto man has the ability to take opponents to the byline but is equally as comfortable operating centrally in a number ten role of sorts.

A vital cog in the attacking weapon that is Colombia, Rodríguez could well be set for world superstar status this summer.

One to watch

Luis Muriel – The 23-year-old Udinese attacker only has five national caps to his name and will have a job on his hands to command a role in a very competitive Colombian forward line.

However, if the South American nation is in need of a goal, throwing the livewire on to complement their array of strikers could be an excellent choice.

Quick, elusive and with an eye for goal, Muriel has the versatility to play anywhere in the final third and could be a wildcard for Colombia if given a chance to feature.

Prediction

Group C is looking like one of the most competitive pools, with all four teams fancying their chances of making it through to the knockout stages.

Colombia will be slight favourites given that they are seeded and the competition is on South American soil.

With their attacking talent and the potential to play against England, Italy or Uruguay in the round of 16, Colombia could well be a dark horse to feature at the business end of the tournament.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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