FIFA World Cup 2018: Colombia
On paper, Colombia have a fantastic squad, blessed with a mixture of young talent and solid experienced players. The young centre-back pairing of Yerry Mina (Barcelona) and Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham) are likely to make their World Cup debuts, although they rarely featured together during qualifying so it’s unlikely that Pekerman will deploy both together although Sanchez and Mina did start together in the March friendly against France so I wouldn’t rule it out completely, Christian Zapata (AC Milan) is a good stand-in if Pekerman wants a bit of experience in defence. Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina will likely be guarding the net behind the defence.
In central midfield Carlos Sanchez (Espanyol) will likely partner Abel Aguilar (Deportivo Cali) although Jefferson Lerma has had a great season for Levante which has apparently triggered interest from several Premier League clubs, however, he is a magnet for yellow cards – topping the La Liga card table this season, he’ll be pushing to establish his place in the team as Sanchez and Aguilar aren’t getting any younger. James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich) will likely take up his place either in attacking midfield or on the wing depending on which formation Pekerman opts for.
Pekerman has some great options available on the wing with Juan Cuadrado (Juventus) and Jose Izquierdo (Brighton) likely to feature heavily. The one position Colombia are absolutely stacked with talent is the position of striker, with Falcao (Monaco), Carlos Bacca (Villarreal) and Luis Muriel (Sevilla) all competing to start with Falcao likely to be the first choice striker.
Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Arsenal), Camilo Vargas (Deportivo Cali), Jose Fernando Cuadrado (Once Caldas)
Defenders: Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Santiago Arias (PSV), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Yerry Mina (Barcelona), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Johan Mojica (Girona)
Midfielders: Carlos Sanchez (Fiorentina), Abel Aguilar (Deportivo Cali), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Juan Quintero (River Plate), Qilmar Barrios (Boca Juniors), Mateus Uribe (Club America), Jefferson Lerma (Levante)
Attackers: Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Carlos Bacca (Villarreal), Luis Muriel (Sevilla), Miguel Borja (Palmeiras), Jose Izquierdo (Brighton)
Colombia flick between a 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 depending on their opponent, often using the 4-2-3-1 when playing stronger opposition and using the 4-4-2 formation when they’re expecting to have plenty of the ball. When playing a 4-2-3-1, Falcao is often preferred as the lone striker although Carlos Bacca also provides a tempting option as does Luis Muriel. The above lineup was the lineup Pekerman started the friendly against France with, although i’d expect Cuadrado to start over Andreas Uribe on the right flank.
Colombia ended up beating a very strong French team 3-2, however there were definite causes for concern. Plenty of times in the first half the defence struggled to deal with the attacking talent of France and were drawn out of position – the defence (Sanchez aside) also couldn’t deal with being pressed when they did win the ball back, and looked panicked on several occasions within the opening 15 minutes, during which time France took the lead courtesy of Giroud (a mistake by Uribe allowed France to get in behind resulting in a low cross that ended in a goal).
Colombia were also caught on the counter a few times, which lead to France’s second goal of the game. Many teams would collapse being 2-0 down to a strong French team within the first 25 minutes, but Colombia didn’t let it phase them, growing into the game as the half carried on looking more assured at the back, dealing with the pressure that France applied much better. Colombia like having the ball, playing goal-kicks short to their full-backs who drop deep, then building from the back, they have a desire to win the ball back and press high up the pitch.
Colombia are fantastic to watch when attacking with bundles of creativity, pace and flair in equal measure, with a wealth of options up front that lets them adapt to any situation they may find themselves in, with Falcao offering great finishing ability and build up play to Bacca or Muriel offering a more direct counter-attacking threat.
- Attacking ability.
- Weak against counter-attacks
- Aging central midfield
Player To Watch
I’m gonna leave the obvious choice (James Rodriguez) to instead focus on another player in the Colombian team: Santiago Arias. I have wondered for a couple of seasons now why Arias hasn’t moved on to a team in a better league as he certainly has the talent to make the step up. The right-back has been a key part of PSV’s title win this season and also won the Eredivisie player of the season grabbing himself 6 assists and 3 goals – a great return from defence. As those stats would imply, Arias is a very attacking full-back, as are most full-backs in the modern game. He possesses great pace and attacking ability, but is also very solid defensively as well with his one vs one ability probably his greatest defensive strength. Should be part of a great partnership with Cuadrado down Colombia’s right flank.
Young Player To Watch
Davinson Sanchez: The youngster has just finished his first in the Premier League since his £40m move from Ajax and looks perfectly at home despite playing against much harder opposition. Defensively the 21 year old is quick, tall and strong in the tackle and racked up an impressive 1.2 tackles won (1.9 attempted) on average per game this season. On top of his defensive ability, he’s technically superb and is very capable with the ball at his feet ending the season with 89.4% pass completion. The ideal centre-back and i’d be very surprised if he wasn’t one of the first choice centre-backs despite only having 8 caps for Colombia so far.
Jefferson Lerma: A combative midfielder, Lerma isn’t guaranteed a seat on the plane, but I’d definitely take him if I were Pekerman. Lerma has made 4 appearances for Colombia so far and is likely to be a mainstay in the Colombian midfield for a while due to his age (23) and the ages of the players currently ahead of him in the Colombian midfield (Aguilar is 33 and Carlos Sanchez is 32). Lerma has played 26 games for Levante this season and posts some impressive defensive stats with 2.1 tackles won (3.3 attempted) per game and with 2.1 interceptions per game on average. Lerma is however a walking yellow card, with 16 yellow cards (one yellow card per 133 minutes played) – a La Liga high for the season which does make him somewhat a liability, but he’s adapt at toeing the line to avoid himself getting sent off, managing not to pick up a red card despite the high amount of yellow cards.
Colombia have a fantastic squad on paper, but concerns over their central midfield and vulnerability on the counter mean they’re unlikely to reach the very end stages of the tournament, but their group of Senegal, Poland and Japan are all very equally matched so it’s entirely possible for them to reach the knock-out rounds, although a tough draw (the teams making it out the group will play the finalists out of Group G – most likely England + Belgium) means they’ll be very lucky to make it past the quarter finals.