Though Uruguay have been dominating the World Cup headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, they have a chance to let their football do the talking as they take on Colombia in the last 16.
However, the Colombians are far from an ideal opposition for Uruguay’s redemption mission, as Jose Pekerman’s side have been arguably the strongest nation in the tournament so far.
Standing on the brink of history, Pekerman is just 90 minutes away from seeing Colombia reach their first World Cup quarter-final, and his star-studded squad look more than ready to get there.
Venue: Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
Date: Saturday 28 June
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1 (U.K.)/ABC (U.S.)
Uruguay Will Struggle Without Luis Suarez
One of the best players in world football right now, Luis Suarez never fails to baffle everyone associated with the game with his head-scratching antics.
Uruguay were chasing their final Group D match with Italy, needing a goal to see them through to the last 16, when Suarez appeared to bite Giorgio Chiellini—instantly turning him from hero to villain, as Rio Ferdinand remarked:
Tell me Suarez didn't eat someone....was the hero a couple a days ago....— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 24, 2014
The Liverpool man now faces a four-month ban from all forms of football, per BBC Sport, and it’s clear that the Uruguayans will miss their hitman come Saturday’s clash.
Without the 27-year-old in their ranks for their opening match with Costa Rica, the Uruguayans looked short of ideas and failed to find the net from open play in a 3-1 defeat.
Just five days later, Suarez was back in action, and two goals and a sensational performance later, Uruguay had three points after a 2-1 victory over England.
With Suarez out, Uruguay will likely turn to the aging Diego Forlan to lead the line with Edinson Cavani, and it’s difficult to see the pair being even a quarter as dangerous as Suarez could have been.
It also doesn’t help that Uruguay are coming up against the formidable force that is Colombia, who have proved already just how far they’re capable of going in Brazil.
With two convincing victories against Greece and Japan together with a hard-fought win over Ivory Coast, Colombia topped Group C with nine points and looked good value for every one of them—Gary Lineker was among many particularly impressed with them:
Colombia are a delight to watch.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 19, 2014
While the Colombians have some remarkable talents in their ranks, James Rodriguez has been their standout performer, scoring a goal per game during the group stage.
As OptaJean revealed, he’s enjoying quite the World Cup and has played a part in five of Colombia’s nine goals so far:
The sky appears to be the limit for the Monaco star, and teammate Jackson Martinez believes that’s the case, too, saying to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that he’s very impressed with Rodriguez— per FIFA.com:
“It's impressive to see how James has improved. I knew him from FC Porto and I see that now in France he has matured so much. The talent he has is something that cannot be questioned. He is having a great tournament.”
The Colombians don’t look for a second like faltering in Brazil, and if Rodriguez keeps his form up, then the quarter-finals await for Pekerman’s side.
Though Uruguay will be tough to break down in Rio de Janeiro, it’s clear that the wealth of attacking talent that Colombia have can breach their stubborn back line and find their way to victory.
With so much controversy surrounding Uruguay and Suarez, off-the-pitch antics may just be too much for the Uruguayans to endure. They could slip to a humbling defeat, with Suarez’s international future still hanging in the balance.
Prediction: Colombia 3-1 Uruguay