Group C has thrown up a mixed bag; representatives of Europe, South America, Africa and Asia are all present and all will fancy their chances of escaping the group. In truth, Group C will be one of the most intriguing because all sides have a realistic chance of making it to the second round, it just depends on how they play on the day.
Colombia will be feeling the absence of Radamel Falcao after the Monaco forward was ruled out of the tournament, but have the chance to prove that they’re not a one man team. Greece meanwhile are yet to reach the success that guided them to victory in Euro 2004, and are fading fast as they continue to rely on their veteran stars of a decade ago who are surely looking at their last tournament.
As a result of containing four evenly matched sides, there are no easy games; every match will be a test, and the two who eventually move on to the next round will have deserved to through beating closely matched opposition. Everyone is looking for a good start, and the chance is there.
Colombia will have confidence as the tournament is on their own continent, and many have tipped them as dark horses; with a European team never winning in South America, Colombia are a solid outside bet behind favourites Brazil and Argentina and they’re expected to achieve after the emergence of a number of top quality players. Greece will remain a tricky customer, but a lack of goals has been a long running issue as they look for someone to fire them into the next round.
Greece pride themselves on a solid defence, and keeping clean sheets will give them a good footing in the tournament. Fernando Santos replaced the long-standing Otto Rehhagel after the 2010 World Cup and masterminded a remarkable win over Russia at Euro 2012 to drag Greece into the quarter finals at the expense of their opponents and co-hosts Poland. The capability is there to cause an upset and better superior opposition, which is what Santos will be tasked with against Colombia.
Jose Pekerman brings the World Cup experience to an exciting Colombia side, having previously coached Argentina in 2006. Despite the absence of Falcao, the side has a number of deadly attacking options that will be keen to fill the gap left by El Tigre. Though primarily a pacy counter attacking team, Colombia are likely to be allowed the ball by a regimented Greece who will want to counter attack themselves and so Pekerman will have to change tack to beat their conservative opponents.
Colombia know how essential it is to get off to a good start and, with better attacking options than Greece, are the more likely of the two counter-attacking teams to go on the offensive. They’ll be hoping the creativity of their attacking triumvirate and numerous striking options at their disposal will give them enough to dispatch Greece before they can do any damage. Fernando Santos will expect his side to remain defensively solid and shut out Colombia, before hitting on the counter and being clinical when the chance presents itself.
Because of the defensive nature of the opposition, James Rodriguez will be expected to be the key to unlock the Greek backline and create opportunities for the other options around him. Pekerman will also expect Juan Cuadrado to drive at the defence and cause issues; his control and composure whilst dribbling make him difficult and, if he can get in behind Greece, he will cause problems.
The striker selected to replace Falcao will also be important, as he will have to unsettle the defence and work opportunities for Colombia; Jackson Martinez offers a powerful target man who can bring others into the game, while Carlos Bacca has the pace to sneak in behind and is clinical in the finish.
For Greece, Dortmund centre back Sokratis is the outstanding star and will be charged with keeping everything tight and solid. Despite their ages, Giorgios Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis remain Greece’s midfield generals and, with approaching 250 caps between them, boast a wealth of experience even if their best days are behind them. Also, Kostas Mitroglou is the sides main source of goals for the side and will be crucial to their chances of winning in the group stages, though his Fulham form may suggest otherwise.
Greece will try to keep solid and expect their midfield to relieve pressure by retaining the ball, but Colombia are energetic and hungry, with a lot of talented players who will harry and chase in order to get the ball and lay siege to the Greek goal. Their strategy is consistent, but as a result has become predictable and Pekerman will have the tactical nous to find a way around it.
If Greece go behind in the first half, the aim will be to keep the scoreline the same until the break and maybe withdraw either Karagounis or Katsouranis in favour of a more energetic, attacking option for the second half. This could open up enough space for Colombia to go in for the kill and finish the game off, especially as the defence starts to tire.
Greece will be hoping to remain resilient for at least the first half, and hope Mitroglou can trouble Colombia’s own weak spot, their ageing central defensive partnership. However Colombia will be hoping that they can keep the majority of the ball and get the goals necessary to see off Greece; if Plan A doesn’t work, Pekerman has enough attacking options on the bench to freshen things up and exploit the weariness of the Greek defence that is inevitable as the game progresses.
Prediction: Colombia 2-0 Greece
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