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Colombia vs. Senegal: 6 Things We Learned

Hugo Chavez BarrosoFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2014

Colombia vs. Senegal: 6 Things We Learned

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Colombia wasn’t able to keep a two-goal lead over Senegal in Argentina and ended up tying, 2-2.

    The game had two faces for the Colombians. A first half with a team that looked solid with a smooth buildup of attacking plays by adding numbers up front and the premise of quick passes to keep possession. The second half must have left a lot of questions on Colombia’s defense, as their weakest line suffered tremendously.

    Colombia’s coach, Jose Pekerman, also used some players that are looking for a spot on the final roster, which obviously led us to think that the result wasn’t the most important thing he was looking for, but the players “tested” performance was. A couple of those players looking for a spot in the final roster had solid performances, and it is now up to Pekerman to decide if that was good enough.

    Here are six points to highlight from the match.

Colombia’s Set Pieces Are a Well-Oiled Weapon

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    In less than 15 minutes, Colombia found its two best scoring options with a couple of corner kicks, which were taken in different ways. The third set piece option came on a free kick.

    The first one was taken from the left side and into the near post, where the ball was headed back into the far post, where an open Carlos Vales had his chance on goal, but his strike went too high. The second one was taken from the right side and into the far post, where Carlos Bacca headed the ball back into the middle of the small box for an open Teo Gutierrez to easily push the ball into the net.

    Added to those corner kicks was a first-half free kick. Juan Quintero was the one in charge of taking it. Some of the Colombian players added themselves to the wall and its nearby to take as much visibility from Senegal’s goalie as possible. Quintero’s shot was to the 'keepers post and went out by inches; if it had been targeted to the goal, the 'keeper would have had no chance of saving it.

Victor Ibarbo Is Earning His Spot in Jose Pekerman’s Final Roster

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Victor Ibarbo was not a part of Colombia coach Jose Pekerman's process, but his recent outstanding performances where enough to be included in the preliminary 30-man roster. Against Senegal, he confirmed that he could be an important attacking alternative.

    Ibarbo can play either as a striker or a winger, and Pekerman decided to use him as the right winger. The Cagliari striker even came far down the field to get the ball and start the buildup of plays.

    The main strength of Ibarbo came thanks to his quickness on the wing and his precise passes, most notoriously into plays in which he assisted Bacca. On the first one, he made a low cross into the far post, but Bacca was unable to convert it into a goal. On the second one, Bacca scored Colombia’s second of the night.

    The fact that Ibarbo can play in different positions and his quality performance today should have given him an edge for a spot on the World Cup roster. Ibarbo can be Juan Cuadrado’s backup. If Radamel Falcao is included in the 23-man roster, more than likely at least one forward will be left out; Ibarbo has shown he should not be the one erased.

Carlos Bacca and Teofilo Gutierrez Getting the Job Done on Top

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Colombia’s major star is undoubtedly the injured Falcao, but even if he makes it to the World Cup, it is unlikely that he will be in top form. So the other forwards on the 30-man current roster are not only fighting to make the cut but to earn a spot in the starting lineup in Brazil.

    Pekerman started with two forwards, Sevilla’s Bacca and River Plate’s Gutierrez. Both of them took advantage of the coach’s confidence and responded by scoring a goal each.

    Gutierrez isn’t impressing at club level, but he has been one of the most consistent players in Pekerman’s process, and as long as he keeps scoring for the national team like he did today, he is the most likely of the forwards to be starting against Greece in Colombia’s World Cup opener.

    Bacca wasted a clear chance, however, he later redeemed himself and scored with a thunder strike. Added to his goal, he also assisted Gutierrez on the first goal of the night. A solid performance for the Sevilla forward, who has also played with Gutierrez at club level, which might also be giving him an edge over other Colombian strikers.

Colombia’s Defensive Gaps Prove Costly

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Colombia plays with a line of four in the back side, but the priority of the full-backs to attack leaves too much space for the center-backs to cover.

    Both Pablo Armero and Camilo Zuniga seem to have a preference to go up and attack than to help have a balanced team. Their incursion on top does provide important contributions to Colombia, since its oriented passing attack is benefited from adding numbers on top. And they also are capable of getting good crosses and getting dangerous free kicks awarded; Zuniga's skill got them a free kick close to the goal.

    The problem is that they sacrifice the defense, leaving a lot of space to cover to the center-backs—Mario Yepes and Carlos Valdes in this case. Which also leaves Colombia relying on the No. 5 to come back to help out. At some points, the full-backs where both too far wide and up that the whole back line had to be covered by them, obviously leaving a lot of space for Senegal in case of getting the ball back and attempting a counter-attack.

    Senegal’s first goal came after the ball was lost by Colombia in its own third of the field, and the right full-back was too wide to come back to help Valdes, who was left one-on-one against Moussa Konate, who managed to score.

Juan Quintero’s Skill and Vision Could Be His Key to the World Cup

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    Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

    Juan Fernando Quintero had a solid performance in Colombia’s midfield and might have just earned a spot in Pekerman’ final roster.

    Quintero is still a very young player, who impressed last year during the under-20 World Cup, where he even scored goals, one of them a superb free kick. His skill to take free kicks is even well-respected by the senior team, who allowed him to take a couple of free kicks against the African squad—the first of which was just inches wide.

    His long-range passes are also high quality; On Colombia’s first goal, he sent a clinical pass for Ibarbo to assist on Bacca’s goal.

    The Porto attacking midfielder didn’t end up playing as much as he would have liked in his first season in Portugal, but Pekerman is someone who values his playing style (e.g., Juan Ramon Riquelme in 2006), so his World Cup dreams could be coming true this summer.

Senegal Showed Attacking Power That Came Short of a Victory

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    The first half ended with a 2-0 lead for the South Americans, but that score was deceptive.

    Colombia scored within the first 12 minutes of the game and seconds just before half-time, but in between, Senegal had an audacious game up front with options to score, one of them denied by Faryd Mondragon save.

    When the second half started, Colombia came in with four substitutions and too confident—something that the African team did not forgive and quickly tied the game. The first goal came by stealing the ball in Colombia’s own third, which led to Konate’s goal.

    Later on, Cheikh Ndoye scored with a blast that Mondragon couldn’t stop. Even though Ndoye’s strike was almost perfect, he took advantage of the Colombian back line, who were all inside the box, and not a single one of them came out to try to at least hinder his shot.

    Once the game was 2-2, Senegal was close to scoring a third one, but Mondragon made the most notorious save of the night.

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