World Cup 2014 hosts Brazil’s stuttering journey continues on Friday with an all-South American showdown against Colombia in Fortaleza.
The Brazilians have been far from impressive in the tournament so far and need to find an extra gear if they’re to live up to their billing as champions-elect, but for Colombia, it’s a totally different story.
Jose Pekerman’s side have been excellent in Brazil and have already progressed beyond their previous best finish in the tournament by reaching the last eight, but they’re now determined to go one better.
Venue: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Date: Friday, 4 July
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1 (U.K.)/ESPN (U.S.)
Colombia on Course to Ruin Brazil’s Party
While the pre-tournament favourites haven’t quite been as phenomenal as we envisioned, Colombia have defied all expectations.
The Colombians have shown the world how it’s done in Brazil with a string of sublime performances so far, winning all four of their matches without really breaking a sweat.
Their fluid, attacking style has been incredibly effective, and they’ve won endless fans for it—including former footballer and current broadcaster Gary Lineker:
Colombia are a delight to watch.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 19, 2014
Though playing the hosts of a World Cup is always a daunting task, Colombia will be far from quaking in their boots, as simply maintaining their form should see them through.
In a round of 16 in which five of the eight ties went to extra time, the Colombians were the only convincing winners, seeing off the challenge of Uruguay with minimal fuss in a 2-0 victory.
Brazil will undoubtedly provide a much sterner test for Pekerman’s side, but the manager says he's looking to take advantage of some unrest in the hosts’ camp, per FIFA.com.
“Sometimes a team with a lot of potential, if they don't find the result and they need to win, they can't play so brilliantly," Pekerman said. "So the competition becomes interesting because a team with less individual stars can disturb the balance of the other team.”
Colombia do have one particular individual star, though, in James Rodriguez. The Monaco man is taking the tournament by storm, scoring five goals to put him first in the race for the Golden Boot and producing endless sublime performances.
A shoo-in for player of the tournament, Rodriguez has set Colombia alight with his quick feet, dynamic vision and lethal finishing ability, winning plaudits from the likes of Rio Ferdinand in the process:
James Rodriguez : 5goals 4assists in this World Cup ! Cheeky little man! Best celebration of the World Cup too! #RioInRio— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 28, 2014
The 22-year-old will once again be looking to fire against Brazil on Friday, and he may well be in luck against the shaky hosts.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men have failed to get going so far, and were it not for a few pieces of good fortune, they’d have been sent packing already.
Their defence has been carved upon far more often than Scolari would have hoped, and, Neymar aside, their attacking unit has been feeble at best.
Though they’ll be coming into Friday’s match as favourites, it’s difficult to see them overcoming the challenge of the Colombians in Fortaleza.
Chile had endless chances to win the match against Brazil in the round of 16, and you have to think that if Rodriguez or another of Colombia’s dangerous front line find themselves in a similar situation, they won’t be taking any prisoners.
Though Brazil won’t be going out with a whimper, Colombia should have enough about them to sneak over the line and continue their remarkable story.
Prediction: Brazil 1-2 Colombia