Belgium vs. Colombia: 6 Things We Learned

Joe Krishnan@joekrishnanContributor INovember 15, 2013

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 14:  Eden Hazard of Belgium battles with Santiago Arias of Colombia during the International Friendly match between Belgium and Colombia at King Baudouin Stadium on November 14, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Neutrals and football hipsters were drawn to their TV sets on Thursday evening when two of the most upcoming footballing nations in world football did battle.

But it was nothing like the goal fest that had been predicted. Colombia ran out 2-0 winners against Belgium in Brussels, and there are no prizes for guessing who was first on the scoresheet.

Radamel Falcao, who joined Monaco this summer from Atletico Madrid for £50 million, capitalised on some poor defending from the home side to round Simon Mignolet and tap home the opener.

Victor Ibarbo, who had only just come on for Luis Muriel, then added a second midway through the second half, powering home his effort at the back post.

It may have been only a friendly, but Jose Pekerman's side gave a signal of intent as they look ahead to the World Cup next summer.

And here are six things we learned from the game.

Colombia are real contenders for Brazil 2014

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 14: (L-R) Faryd Mondragon, Carlos Valdes, Luis Perea and Vicotr Ibarbo of Colombia celebrate after the international friendly match between Belgium and Colombia at King Badouin stadium on November 14, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

If any nation can crash Brazil's dream of winning the World Cup on their home turf, most people would point to Argentina, Germany or Spain. 

But you would be foolish to discard Colombia from the running, given their form over the last 18 months.

And it's not a case of them being just a one-man team, either. Falcao is the obvious choice to lead the attack, but there's also Jackson Martinez, who is in superb form for Porto, and forwards such as Dorlan Pabon, who is pushing for a start too.

Not to mention James Rodriguez, who was exceptional in the midfield against Belgium. He pulled all the strings and caused havoc with his runs into space.

And when you consider Juan Fernando Quintero, Pablo Armero, Juan Manuel Cuadrado and Fredy Guarin are all Colombian internationals, it becomes obvious that this squad is brimming with talent and should not be taken lightly.

Underestimate them at your peril.

Relax Belgium, it's just a friendly

In any case, international football is starting to lose its real worth. Unless it's a competitive game, the fans don't want to travel halfway around the world to watch their third-string side play in the Middle East.

In this case, both teams seemed like they wanted to win, and that's refreshing from a supporter's point of view. As ludicrous as it may seem, sometimes the manager is more focused on experimenting with new tactics and formations than the result.

And that's why Belgium fans should not be too disheartened by the loss. Yes, Colombia won 2-0, but Belgium had several chances of their own. If this had happened in the World Cup, alarm bells would rightly ring. The defending at times was atrocious, and surely Marc Wilmots will be having a few words with the back line after the game.

But it was just a money-spinning exhibition game after all. No need to panic...yet.

Pekerman the magic man

Colombia were in all sorts of bother before Pekerman arrived, and to envisage 18 months ago that they would be ranked fourth in the world would be laughable to some skeptics.

But the Argentine has turned things around. He has his team playing the perfect blend of attacking football with a sense of defensive discipline. 

Only Argentina scored more than Colombia in the World Cup qualifying, and with two more goals and a clean sheet on Thursday, they've shown themselves to be a significant goal threat.

Some might argue they rode their luck at times, and it's a point that can hardly be disputed. But this is a well-organised, dangerous Colombia side who are capable of taking on just about anyone.

Pekerman deserves more credit than he has received so far for steering a sinking ship toward safety, and it will be intriguing to see how he copes with expectation at the next World Cup. 

Creative Belgium lack discipline

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 14: (L-R) Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen of Belgium look dejected after the international friendly match between Belgium and Colombia at King Badouin stadium on November 14, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium. The match between B
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Many managers would envy the squad that Wilmots has at his disposal. The dilemma of picking whom to play out of Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke or Jelle Vossen is hardly a bad decision to have to make. 

He also has Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Steven Defour as the creative options. 

But what about the defence?

Well, even without their inspirational captain Vincent Kompany, Belgium should be able to survive. But on Thursday, they looked shaky and lacking in confidence. Toby Alderweireld was switched to centre-half, and the Atletico Madrid defender was poor.

His lack of positional awareness meant that when his teammates had pushed up, he was the man left standing to play Falcao onside. Similarly, he was slow to react to Ibarbo's thunderous strike, which left Mignolet with no chance.

A disappointing defensive display from such a creative side leaves questions hanging over their reliability at the back line ahead of next summer's tournament.

Falcao is the real deal

Those who doubted whether the 27-year-old was worth the £50 million that Monaco shelled out to sign him from Atletico Madrid must be feeling regretful.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 14:  Radamel Falcao of Columbia celebrates scoring their first goal during the International Friendly match between Belgium and Columbia at King Baudouin Stadium on November 14, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Christophe
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

He is a man in form, but let's face it, when is he not? He hit his 20th national goal on Thursday in his 50th start, which means he is just five off the record set by Arnoldo Iguaran. You would certainly back Falcao to set his own record soon enough.

He looked every part the complete striker on Thursday, using a combination of pace, composure and superb aerial ability to round the goalkeeper.

Chelsea may be kicking themselves after missing out on the forward this summer, per BBC Sport. With nine goals in 13 Ligue 1 games, Falcao is showing the Blues what they are missing.

Even at 42, Faryd Mondragon still looks sharp

He made his debut in the same year that team-mate Juan Fernando Quintero was born—1993and so it's a testament to veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon that he still possesses the desire and ability to perform at 42 years of age.

Mark Schwarzer and Brad Friedel both opted to retire when they approached their 40s, but not Mondragon. He's made 51 caps for his country and capped a solid performance in goal with a deserved clean sheet.

He appeared to be in decent shape in terms of physicality and an agile figure in between the sticks. Pekerman will be satisfied with his keeper's performance. 

He may have had 11 different clubs spanning over eight countries, but that only confirms that he is one of the last players who loves to play for his country.

It's perhaps a long shot, but many will be hoping that he breaks Roger Milla's record for oldest player at a World Cup next year.

If he were to feature, he would do just that. 


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