Colombia's James Rodriguez Is an Early Contender for Player of the World CupJune 28, 2014
After leading Colombia to a 2-0 win over Uruguay in the round of 16, James Rodriguez must be considered one of the front-runners to be named player of the tournament at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
Colombia's vibrant brand of football has made them one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Brazil, and Rodriguez himself is usually at the centre of their attacking play.
The 22-year-old scored his fourth and fifth goals of the competition at the Maracana to also put himself in the lead for the Golden Boot award.
Rodriguez's second goal was a case of being in the right place at the right time to finish off a fluid team move, but his first was jaw-dropping in its brilliance.
Controlling a forward header from Juan Cuadrado with his chest, James turned and thumped the ball into the back of the net from just outside the D in a move that was both graceful and brutal.
The AS Monaco man brings so much more to the team than goals, however.
He is also Colombia's most creative player. While Cuadrado offers dynamism and forward thrust, Rodriquez acts as a hub for much of the side's attacking play.
Moving from the left to the centre, and occasionally over to the right flank, the elegant No. 10 patrols the area just in front of the opponent's defensive line, searching for small pockets of space to work in.
When he receives the ball, he is skilful enough to move past defenders or feed the ball through to another member of Colombia's fluid forward line; he is essentially a classic South American-style playmaker.
In the group stage, Rodriguez scored in all three games, most notably coming off the bench in his team's third game against Japan to set up two goals for Jackson Martinez then finish a brilliant solo effort of his own.
Some of the world's best players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez have already departed Brazil.
Lionel Messi has three man of the match awards thus far and is yet to play in the second phase, while Neymar has four goals but was absent for large parts of Brazil's shootout win over Chile.
James has arguably been as good, if not better, than those two icons of the game so far in Brazil.
Whether he takes out the player of the tournament award or not when all is said and done, he has given his own status such a massive boost that he deserves to be mentioned alongside such big names as one of the genuine stars of the 2014 World Cup.