Colombia get off to poor start in 2015 Copa America

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We've only just finished the first round and the 2015 Copa America has served up its first true upset, as Venezuela registered a one-goal victory over a previously dazzling Colombia side.

The neutral's pick at the 2014 World Cup, the Colombians were but a shadow of the side that dazzled in Brazil with its attractive blend of speedy possession, aggressive, physical pressing and electric pace.

In this tournament debut, they were plodding and uninspired. Indeed, anyone who hadn't seen last year's efforts would be wondering what all the fuss had been about. They have much to do to improve their chances of threatening a tournament, chief of which is the issue of two key players whose bad form hampers the success of their entire formation.

The chief culprit for many has been Falcao. Once among the greatest strikers in world football - his single-handed destruction of Chelsea in a European Super Cup was among the best individual performances of the 21st Century - he is now the go-to person to blame.

After a frankly disastrous period at Manchester United and on the back of some horrific injury problems, he appeared a figure devoid of any self-belief and, more crucially, match intelligence.

Falcao's demise continues

Colombia's World Cup wonders came from a flexible 4-2-3-1 formation which attacked at frightening speed and involved regular interchange across the attacking line - a frontline crucially missing an injured Falcao.

With him in the side and a return to less flexible 4-2-2-2 to accommodate him, this spark seems to left the side just as much as it has Falcao. His glaring lack of pace often left him a stationary figure whom his teammates were unwilling to pass to. More than that, his fixed central role contributed to a now-static attacking line where everyone had more of a defined positional role.

Rather than bringing out the best of the side, it negated their fluidity and the individual talents of those within the system.

Juan Cuadrado struggling

Nowhere is this knock-on negativity seen more obviously in the form of Chelsea's Juan Cuadrado. While James Rodriguez  got most of the 2014 plaudits, it was often the former Fiorentina winger whose pace and direct attacking runs dragged Colombia so breathlessly and effectively from defence to attack.

Having suffered just as much of a personal loss of form as Falcao, Cuadrado cut an anonymous figure against Venezuela in a deeper position in wide midfield. Where once he was sprinting forward across the entire front line, he seems now to be an ineffective fixed winger whose poor domestic season has neutered what had been imperious international form.

Where once he galloped at will, he now seems to trudge in a tactical system that negates his, and the team's, terrifying attacking potential.

Pekerman has decisions to make

As they head into a potential crunch tie against Brazil, it would seem imperative that change is needed. If Jose Pekerman insists on the more rigid 4-2-2-2, it would seem Falcao would have to make way.

For such a system to work, a stronger, quicker centre forward is needed to drop in between the oppositions midfield and defence, drag markers out of position and thus bring a degree of space and that this side so desperately needs to attack well.

After another great season for Porto, Milan-bound Jackson Martinez would seem an ideal replacement. Alternatively, if Pekerman's well-known loyalty to Falcao (the side's talisman for so long) prevents him being dropped, a return to the more-flexible 4-2-3-1 would see James returned to his natural role as a central playmaker, while Cuadrado could again find the freedom to cut his way across either flank like his frankly sublime performances in Brazil twelve months ago.

The prospect of facing a Neymar-led Brazil could lead some to think defence needs to be the top concern. For this side however, to chance any chance to beating them at the back, they must urgently readdress their issues at the front.

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Juan Cuadrado
Juan Cuadrado

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