The FIFA World Cup 2014 knockout stages have arrived, with 16 teams exiting at the group stage and the rest left to fight it out for the ultimate prize.
Here we analyse Colombia vs. Uruguay: a battle between two South American sides who have enjoyed fervent home support thus far. Who will have the edge?
Colombia have a new talisman, and he goes by the name of James Rodriguez.
While the world fretted about the loss of Radamel Falcao pre-tournament, Colombians were busy informing the globe that their main man is actually their No. 10.
Colombia should revert to the 4-2-3-1 formation they played in their first two games, shelving the 4-1-4-1/4-2-2-2 hybrid we saw against Japan, and James Rodriguez will again be central to their hopes of progression.
"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," striker Jackson Martinez told FIFA.com. "The talent he has is something that cannot be questioned. He is having a great tournament."
A host of stars will come back into the side. Mario Yepes, Cristian Zapata, Camilo Zuniga and more will start.
Once again, we're talking about Luis Suarez's disciplinary issues rather than focusing on the upcoming match.
He's provided the offensive spark they needed over the two games he played, but his shocking split-second decision to bite Giorgio Chiellini has harmed his team's chances of getting any further here.
They were drab against Costa Rica sans Suarez, lacking movement and ingenuity. They will revert back to Diego Forlan or perhaps play Christian Stuani off Edinson Cavani in the forward line to try absorbing as much pressure as the defensive line can take.
Striker Martinez, who may not start despite a two-goal performance against Japan, told reporters ahead of the game he expects a tough battle (via The Express):
Uruguay is a very difficult opponent and we will have to be concentrated and focused if we are to reach the quarter-finals.
We know Uruguay's strengths and they know about us so there will be little surprise of advantage for either team.
2 Tactical Clashes
Uruguay will soak up press and counter-attack—a strategy that worked superbly against both England and Italy in the group stages.
But countering Colombia is near-impossible, as they leave six back and field two defensive midfielders who guard the back four first and foremost.
If anything, Los Cafeteros will encourage their opponents to take possession of the ball and try to work openings, allowing themselves the counter as an option.
Without Suarez, that just got a whole lot harder for La Celeste.
2. 3-5-2 or 4-3-1-2?
Uruguay have now played three formations in the tournament: 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2 and 3-5-2. Oscar Tabarez is known for his flexibility and will pick the right system for the right game, but which will he opt for here?
Martin Caceres, Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin have all been in good form, so sticking with three will lend to form. It's also attractive to have three back at all times to deal with Rodriguez's ridiculously sharp counter-attacks, but will Edinson Cavani then be too isolated?
Diego Forlan doesn't belong at this level any longer; can he give his teammate the support and link play he needs?
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.