Colombia's New Stars Can Overcome History in World Cup Quarter-Final vs. Brazil

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Colombia's James Rodriguez (10) celebrates with his teammates after he scored his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, June 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Perhaps the most intriguing of the 2014 FIFA World Cup quarter-final matches is the all-South American clash that sees the hosts, Brazil, take on the tournament's most entertaining side so far, Colombia.

The two will do battle on Friday in Fortaleza for a place in the semi-finals, which is arguably a minimum acceptable achievement for Brazil on home soil.

Colombia, meanwhile, have already made waves by reaching the last eight, but their current crop of players have the ability to surpass anything the national side has achieved in history, especially with respect to facing Brazil.


Battle of Star No. 10s

Of course, top billing for the clash will be two of the tournament's three most recognisable faces: Neymar, Brazil's No. 10, and James Rodriguez, who wears the same shirt for Colombia.

Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

Between them, they have scored nine goals at this tournament, with Rodriguez leading the Golden Boot award (five goals) and Neymar having hit half of his side's strikes so far (four goals).

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

They are the team leaders, the flashiest players with the biggest end product, the fast, the skillful and the young. In short, they are the perfect image of the biggest tournament on Earth, and they are very much delivering this summer.

It would be no surprise if one or the other made the final telling impact in the match.


Weight of History

Colombia's best-ever achievement at the World Cup finals came in 1990, when Carlos Valderrama, et al. managed to get out of the group phase and reach the round of 16. Beyond that, it has been group stages all the way...or not at all, as the case was from after 1998 until the present tournament.

David Cannon/Getty Images

That makes the present side, led by coach Jose Pekerman, captained by grizzled veteran centre-back Mario Yepes and fronted by Rodriguez, history-makers in their own country. Never before had they won more than a single game at the finals, let alone four from four to make the quarter-finals, while they have so far also conceded fewer goals than at any previous finals appearance.

Looking further across the landscape of Colombian football, they have particularly struggled when coming up against Brazil.

Just twice in 25 meetings have they beaten their continental rivals; a friendly in 1985, 1-0, and a Copa America tie in 1991, 2-0. In more recent times, the last four meetings have all been drawn, all World Cup qualifiers.



Why can Colombia win?

Anybody who has watched the World Cup unfold until now will note that Brazil have been way below the level expected of them, with only the attacking force of Neymar and the defensive resolution of Thiago Silva the absolute positives so far.

There have been flashes of impressive displays around them—Oscar in the opening match, Julio Cesar in the shootout, and so on—but as a functioning team who have been playing the same system for two years and won the Confederations Cup last summer, it has been largely poor.

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 28:  Julio Cesar of Brazil celebrates with teammates after defeating Chile in a penalty shootout during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match between Brazil and Chile at Estadio Mineirao on June 28, 2014 in Belo Ho
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Chile came very close to knocking them out, and Colombia finished one place and two points higher than Chile in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign.

A similarly hard-working side, fast in the transition and with equally as impressive attackers at their disposal, Brazil are likely to be in for a real fight to keep their own impressive record up in games against Colombia.

Pekerman and Co. will surely be thinking they sense the opportunity to end that horrendous run on Friday and make even more history than they already have.