Colombia endured a frustrating start to their World Cup in Group H, losing 2-1 to Japan after playing almost the entire game with ten men. The pre-tournament favourites to top the group knew that Sunday nights clash with Poland was crucial to their hopes of making the knockout stages.
In truth, they were just too good for Poland, who were once again proved disappointing at a major a tournament. Colombia recorded a deserved 3-0 win over their European opponents, with a brilliant display.
Outstanding front four
Colombia boss Jose Pekerman reportedly had a tough decision to make before kick-off whether to play a once again fully-fit James Rodriguez or Juan Quintero. However, the veteran boss decided to field both players and it was a masterstroke.
The pair along with striker Radamel Falcao and winger Juan Cuadrado caused the Poland defence all sorts of problems. Rodriguez pulled the strings, while Quintero had a have in two of the goals before leaving the pitch on 73 minutes.
Falcao and Cuadrado both got on the scoresheet. The pair look like different players who struggled for game time and form in the Premier League. Both are now thriving at club and international level.
On their day, the quartet has all the ingredients to cause any defence in the competition problems. Falcao maybe 32, but he still knows where the net is. With the talented trio behind him, no doubt his goal against the Poles will not be his last.
Work to do in Group H
Colombia on paper are probably the best team in the group. However, the early sending off in their opener changed the complexion of the group entirely. Now they have to beat Senegal in their third group game on Thursday afternoon to ensure their place in the knockout stages.
In fact, Jose Pekerman’s team can still win the group with a victory, if Japan and Poland draw the other match. A draw would also see the South American giants go through to the knockout stages if Poland beat Japan.
Group H was always going to be the most open at Russia 2018, and it seems it is living up to that billing, with three teams still competing for the two qualification spots from the group.
Colombia are a team to avoid in the last 16
Whoever qualifies from Group H for the knockout stages of the competition will face England or Belgium. However, I doubt Gareth Southgate or Roberto Martinez’s side will want to meet the South Americans in the knockout stages.
Senegal and Japan are good teams, but I believe that both England and Belgium would rather face the Asian or African teams than the dangerous South American outfit in the knockout stages of the competition.
Colombia showed their true class against Poland. With a fully-fit James Rodriguez the creative hub and Falcao the poacher in attack, Colombia would be very dangerous opponents in the last 16. They are sure to fancy their chances of progression whomever they meet in the knockout stages.
Pekerman’s side first needs to get past Senegal, which will not be easy. However, they have the quality, creativity and determination to get the result they need to finish Group H on a high and with good momentum.
Will Colombia make the knockout stages of World Cup 2016?