Colombia could prove to be this World Cup’s dark horse, spearheaded by James Rodriguez.
Rodriguez caught the world’s attention with an unbelievable strike in his side’s 2-0 victory over Uruguay. The South American outfit look more at home than some of their fellow continental counterparts, and have been rewarded with a dream tie quarter-final against Brazil.
There was a sense that the football world was behind Colombia, irked by Uruguay’s vehement backing of the ever-controversial Luis Suarez. The last-16 tie between the two was overshadowed somewhat by the pre-match focus on Suarez’s four-month ban, imposed by FIFA after the Liverpool striker was caught on video biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.
As it turned out, Uruguay’s exit was to come just days after the announcement of Suarez’s imposed exile. Rodriguez stole the headlines right out of Suarez’s mouth, and the number 10 insists his side are not feeling the pressure ahead of their showdown with the host nation.
Brazil have not been at their best so far, drawing with Mexico and benefiting from controversial refereeing decisions against Croatia in the group stage. They then needed penalties to get past Chile, and could be without Neymar in the quarter-finals, after the Barcelona star picked up a knock.
Colombia, on the other hand, have been one of the surprise packages of the tournament so far, catching the eye having totalled nine points from their three games, beating Greece, the Ivory Coast, and Japan. Only the Netherlands had as good a goal difference as them.
Their display has been in no small part thanks to Rodriguez, whom defeated Uruguay coach Òscar Tabàrez compared to Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. His own coach, Jose Pekerman of Colombia similarly said that he “never had any doubts that this was going to be (Rodriguez’s) World Cup”. The 22-year-old has certainly made himself a household name, after being vaguely linked with Tottenham during Andre Villas-Boas’ time in charge.
Colombia: Not a one-man team
Despite Rodriguez’s importance, Colombia are far from a one man team. Jackson Martinez and Juan Cuardrado will also keep Brazil’s hands full; while Colombia will go into the game as underdogs, Brazil might just crack under the immense pressure that has been building. Group C was admittedly not the strongest, but Colombia have played with a swagger that suggests they could cause a major upset in the next round.
The protests against the World Cup’s expenditure are ongoing in Rio de Janeiro, and a premature Brazilian exit – unthinkable three weeks ago – might just tip them over the edge.
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