World Cup 2018: Why you should follow Colombia
As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. With 7 days to the big kick-off, it is the turn of Colombia.
Forget all the clichés you know about the Colombian national team, the current squad is not a team full of attacking, verve and wild haircuts. They can, however, be very effective.
Think less Barcelona and more Leicester City for the Colombian class of 2018.
Under Argentinian manager Jose Pekerman, Colombia are a side that, for the most part, like to play on the counter-attack and grind out results, while their central midfield is often more focused on defensive duties that anything else.
With a attacking line-up that includes James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao, you wouldn’t think that goals have been a problem for Colombia but that was the story of their qualification.
Winning only seven of their 18 qualifying group games and scoring just 21 goals, Colombia didn’t book their place in Russia until the very final day of their campaign where a 1-1 draw with Peru saw them take the last available automatic qualifying place.
Facing teams like Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the CONMEBOL qualifying group offered great experience for the Colombians but did lead to some wildly inconsistent results.
James and Falcao were often left to their own devices to produce moments of individual brilliance and with little in the way of real technical quality playing behind them, James was often forced to drop deep to come and effect the play, with Falcao left isolated.
Both James and Falcao are players with a point to prove in Russia. James is still smarting from being sent out on loan by Real Madrid while Falcao is eager to make up for lost time having missed the 2014 World Cup through injury.
Outside of James, Pekerman is limited by his midfield choices and is still left relying on old warhorses Abel Aguilar and Carlos Sanchez, despite both players’ best years now being behind them.
Where the Colombians do have youth and quality is in defence and it’s perhaps understandable that Pekerman has built his team around them.
The likes of Yerry Mina, Davinson Sanchez and Cristian Zapata would slot into most teams and for Colombia their strength at the back offers a platform on which they build.
They’ve got real pace at the back and defenders who are comfortable in possession will often carry the ball out of defence to set-up counter-attacks.
Colombia will be confident of progressing from Group H and will most likely end up vying with Poland for top spot. They’ll be confident that their tough qualifying process gives them the edge over the likes of Japan and Senegal.
They’ve faced bigger and better teams in qualifying and were able to progress so a place in the round of 16 where they will most likely face either Belgium or England will be the minimum requirement.
Sneak a win in the last 16 and who knows how far they could go? Leicester City did win the Premier League after all.