Forget Belgium - Colombia are the real World Cup dark horses

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Colombia are genuine World Cup contenders, and here's why: Colombia will be playing on their home continent, in a country, stadiums and environment they will be very familiar with whereas Belgium will not.

Furthering this point is the fact that only one European country have won a World Cup outside their own continent, which was Spain in

2010, one of the greatest European national teams of all time. Belgium are not Spain, not yet maybe, but even before 2010,Spain had won Euro 2008 and finished third at the previous year's Confederations Cup which was held in South Africa, giving Spain a trial run in the country hosting the global showpiece. Belgium failed to qualify for Euro 2012 and won't be in Brazil for this year's Confederations Cup.

The second key issue is Radomel Falcao. The man has ripped defenders to pieces in various Portuguese and Spanish league and cup competitions, he has been Mr. Europa League for two years and destroyed Chelsea in a memorable night in Monaco, a place which he now calls home. For any underdog nation wanting to shock the world, you need a striker to score vital
goals at vital moments, Falcao is that man.

No Belgian striker has Falcao's range of talents and skills, Falcao could lead Colombia to the latter stages of the competition like Diego Forlan four years before him. Even without Falcao,
Colombia could still match and even better their Belgian counterparts in the attacking department. In the likes of Jackson Martinez, Freddy Guarin, Johnathan Quintero, Teofilo Gutierrez, Luis Muriel and James Rodriguez, Columbia have the attacking threats other nations could only dream of. With Falcao firing on all cylinders, Colombia have the attacking threats to penetrate any defence.

The third and the most important issue of all, the places where the Colombians play their club football - Serie A! Whilst Belgian players are in abundance in the English Premier League, Colombia have a strong contingent of their squad based in Serie A. The bulk of the Uruguayan side from four years ago played in La Liga and Serie A. The bottom-line is that Serie A(and La Liga and the Bundesliga for that matter) equips players for International football more than the Premier League! Italy's four world cups -more than any other European nation - and the facts on hand don’t lie either.

The French team from their 1998 World Cup success had seven players playing in Serie A, the Brazil team from the 2002 World Cup  had four  players in Serie A (It would have been five had it not been for Emerson’s injury), both instances where more than the Premier League
representation in those winning squads, which justifies this fact even further.

Back in the 1998 the two most successful French players in the Premier League where national-team disgards David Ginola and Eric Cantona. Since the influx of French players to the Premier League, France haven't come close to emulating their 1998 - 2001 glory days in which they won three major tournaments. Even their 1984 Euro success was spearheaded by Michele Platini and he played in Italy. Brazil's win in 2002 featured the likes of Ronaldo and Cafu who where players playing for the top clubs in Italy.

The technical and tactical approach of Italian and Spanish football will serve the Colombian players in good stead. It's no coincidence that Uruguayan and Columbian players playing in Serie A have coincided with the emergence of those two national teams on the world stage. By 2014, with another tough Serie A season under their belts, the Colombians playing in Serie A will be battle-hardened even further.

Belgium on the other hand, will boast several players plying their trade in the Premier League. Like the England national team and the other British nation - on the rare occasions when the do qualify- all the technical flaws of their game are often exposed severely at major international tournaments.

Even the Ivory Coast, perhaps a prime example, have always had strong contingents of Premier League players in their squads since their 'golden generation' burst onto the scene  in 2004, have flopped at World Cups and have buckled under the favourites tag given to them at the start of every African Cup of Nations. Not surprisingly, they've often been outwitted

Having players spread across several European leagues rather than playing in just one is an
advantage in embracing football traditions, cultures and ideology. Columbia have this advantage – especially with players playing in La Liga and Serie A.

With the likes of Christian Zuniga, Juan Cuadrado and  Pablo Armero, Colombia boast players
tactically suited to playing in several formations. With Zuniga and Armero accustomed to Napoli's old 3-4-3 formation, additionally Armero and Cuardado both played in Udinese's 3-5-2 formation, Colombia possess three players capable of playing wing, full-back or wing-back.

James Rodriguez was and Jackson Martinez is still part of a Porto team who alter their playing style in Europe compared to their domestic form whilst Freddy Guarin has been a mainstay in a variety of failed formations at Inter Milan over the past eighteen months. At the World Cup, Colombia will have several players who won't look lost in a formation or tactical switch, whereas Belgium have four centre-backs in the back four, whilst defensively capable, neither will possess the attacking threat on the flanks like Cuardado, Armero or Zuniga.

This exact same, so-called “golden generation” of Belgian players failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championships. In fact Belgium have not qualified for any major event since 2002. This entire team has not played at a major tournament before. They have never been exposed to tournament pressures, to the fever-pitch excitement that grips the nation hosting a World Cup, the media pressures, the worldwide scrutiny and analysis of every player of the team, living in team hotels for an extended period longer than week, all these things count against this Belgian team. 

Unlike the Belgian manager Marc Wilmots, Colombian manager Jose Pekerman has coached at the World Cup, back in 2006, making the quarter-finals with Argentina, who were unfortunate to lose on penalties to Germany. Pekerman is an experienced manager who has won three U/20 World Cups with the Argentina U/20’s and such has been the quality of his work with the Colombia side, he was voted South American Coach OF The Year for 2013.

Don’t bet against him on winning that award again as it will be in the heat of battle, in the most pressure situations where Colombia will have a cool-head making key decisions, bringing calmness and collectiveness to this talented collection of Colombian stars. Whilst Wilmots has shown he is more than capable of managing a talented team, he has never managed at an International tournament or a continental club tournament either which means his managerial credentials will be tested like never before in Brazil. Advantage Colombia as they set their sights on World Cup 2014.

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