As we move into the third day of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we bring you the next in an in-depth series of match previews that centre on tactics, team selections and predicted XIs.
Colombia vs. Greece is the first game of the day on Saturday, pitting the attacking delights of Los Cafeteros against the defensive resilience of Fernando Santos' troops.
How Colombia Will Shape Up
Many believe Colombia will be rocking after Radamel Falcao missed the squad due to injury, but that's one misconception to shelve immediately.
He was never the King of the Cafeteros. James Rodriguez is, and while losing a world-class striker hurts, Jose Pekerman has four strong options to call upon to replace him and will pick carefully between them.
Jackson Martinez has had the most exposure to the squad, but Carlos Bacca and Victor Ibarbo have been pulling their weight too.
The formation will be 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-2-2, and with Greece proving hard to break down on a consistent basis, two forwards could be the call. The under-the-radar partnership of Bacca and Teofilo Gutierrez looks set to blossom.
How Greece Will Shape Up
Greece will play a very similar 4-3-3 to the one we saw at Euro 2012, with the focus on defensive structure and rapier-like counter-attacks.
They sit deep and defend in numbers, cloud the box and remove space outside it so the opposition have trouble creating clear-cut chances. They can defend crosses and aerials all day, then switch focus and score within 10 seconds through smooth transitions.
Konstantinos Katsouranis and Giannis Maniatis are vital as a shield ahead of the defence, Sokratis Papastathopoulos is godlike in defence and Kostas Mitroglou is the wild card in attack.
3 Tactical Clashes
1. Forced Wide
The first question that Pekerman will ponder is how he's going to break Greece down.
Santos will pack the midfield zones just in front of the box, nullifying any No. 10 that crosses their path due to sheer force of numbers and limited space. A passing game with any form of penetration will be tough to construct, and Colombia will inevitably be forced into the wide zones.
This is where buccaneering full-backs come in handy, and Los Cafeteros seem set to boast two in Pablo Armero and Carlos Zuniga. Juan Cuadrado can also commit to the byline, giving Colombia rare width and power in the modern game.
2. Physical Over Technical
If the technical and tactical approach fails—as it so often has against Greece—Colombia could opt for a Plan B, of sorts, in the form of raw physical power.
If Greece prove stubborn enough, Pekerman could well send on a deep-lying midfielder who can run with the ball and send a cannon-like shot in on goal.
Martinez, too, is a mammoth in the air and could well become a quick-fix as a focal point for crosses, with Bacca a slightly more direct, pacey alternative.
3. Behind the Full-Backs
Colombia's defence is hardly legendary, and if there are questions over the Mario Yepes-Carlos Valdes centre-back partnership, there should be a downright inquisition over the defensive ability of Armero and Zuniga.
Zuniga is the better of the two, but he's had very little in terms of playing time over the last eight months and Armero struggled for time at West Ham.
They both commit to attacks and leave space behind, and that's the area of the pitch Greece's Georgios Samaras and Dimitris Salpingidis look to exploit on counters. Pekerman, hopefully, will have watched those Euro 2012 tapes.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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