Colombia were one of the strongest teams in South American qualifying and have become a trendy pick to win the World Cup, as soccer hipsters latch onto them and other non-traditional soccer powers like Belgium heading into the tournament.
But who is on this sneaky contender? Which players are likely to crack the starting lineup? And what's the latest on that superstar striker from Monaco trying to battle back from injury who everyone talks about when Colombia is mentioned?
Let's find out.
Here is Colombia's full 23-man roster, courtesy of BBC Sport:
|GK||Faryd Mondragon||Deportivo Cali|
|GK||Camilo Vargas||Independiente Santa Fe|
|DEF||Mario Yepes||AC Milan|
|DEF||Cristian Zapata||AC Milan|
|DEF||Eder Alvarez Balanta||River Plate|
|DEF||Carlos Valdes||San Lorenzo|
|MID||Fredy Guarin||Inter Milan|
|MID||Juan Fernando Quintero||Porto|
|MID||Aldo Leao Ramirez||Morelia|
|MID||Alexander Mejia||Atletico Nacional|
|FWD||Adrian Ramos||Hertha Berlin|
|FWD||Teofilo Gutierrez||River Plate|
And here is the team's projected starting lineup:
With Radamel Falcao officially out of the 2014 World Cup final 23-man squad, the pair of forwards that Colombia will utilize becomes the popular storyline. Thankfully for the club, they have a handful of talented options.
Jackson Martinez would be a popular pick for those who have seen him ply his trade for Porto. Teofilo Gutierrez isn't as well known, but he fits the team's style perfectly. And concluding the spoil of riches, the Colombians can also utilize Carlos Bacca (14 goals for Sevilla this season), Adrian Ramos (16 goals for Hertha Berlin) or Victor Ibarbo (four goals for Cagliari).
Colombia's wing players are set in stone, with Juan Cuadrado dipping and darting down the right wing and James Rodriguez playing the role of playmaker on the left. Rodriguez is this team's talisman and creative spark, and how he plays in Brazil will directly influence Colombia's performance in this year's Cup.
But the two were generally stifled in a 1-1 draw against Tunisia in March, a major worry for the squad if that trend continues in Brazil, notes Juan Arango of The Telegraph:
In the Colombian midfield, there was a major issue as Rodriguez was the man who was crowded around and saw his touches limited. If there is a player that Colombia depend on just as much or more than Falcao, it’s his AS Monaco team-mate.
James is the man who pulls the strings in the midfield and was the lone shining light in an encounter that wasn’t the most favourable for Los Cafeteros. When he did get the chances to create, he showed that he was the only player on the pitch that had clarity. Unfortunately for Colombia, those opportunities were too few and far between.
Colombia’s passes forward were a near-religious experience; especially playing the ball out of their own end of the pitch. There were some major issues establishing passing options to get to Rodríguez on a constant basis while Tunisia flooded the middle of the park. For every pass forward, there were two that went backwards and it hindered the generation of their offensive options with players like Cuadrado being neutralised.
If that persists in Colombia, it will be a short trip for the talented South American side.
The central midfield pair is less set in stone, though Abel Aguilar and Fredy Guarin would be logical choices in the role. Carlos Sanchez and Aldo Leao Ramirez are also distinct possibilities, and Pekerman will likely tinker with his players there depending on the matchup.
Centre-back will be another interesting position to watch. Cristian Zapata should get the nod for one of the two starting spots with the injury to Luis Amaranto Perea. Pekerman has also shown an affinity for 38-year-old Mario Yepes in the past, so the other centre-back spot looks to be filled.
Yepes is the team's leader, but his pace has significantly waned. Against the fast and athletic attackers of the Ivory Coast, Yepes likely would be more of a liability than a calming presence.
Overall, this is a talented squad, but one whose chances at winning this year's tournament were far likelier before Falcao injured his knee earlier in the season. Still, in a winnable group, this is a club that should advance out of the group stage.