JAMES Rodríguez. What a footballer, writes CRAIG RIMMER.
I could choose to write about Colombia, and how they have made impressively light work of Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan, and are one of just three teams to claim a maximum nine points. But, I’d rather just write about James Rodríguez (pictured).
Juan Cuadrado. What a footballer.
I could just write about Johnny Square* and his incredibly quick feet, instead.
*for some reason I love the fact that his name translates as Johnny Square
Then there’s Juan Quintero.
Another hugely talented, technical footballer. Another reason that the yellow mass of Colombian fans who have invaded Brazil this past two weeks will continue their journey to Rio and beyond.
Colombia face Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro tomorrow. Uruguay – minus Suarez – should hold no fears for Jose Pekerman’s yellow army.
Then there’s the prospect of a tantalising quarter-final with Brazil in Fortaleza (that’s assuming the Chileans don’t do for Brazil in the meantime). Colombia have never reached the quarter-finals before.
Sure Oscar Tabarez, the Uruguay coach, is a wily tactician. Colombia are likely to face a far more resistant and organised rearguard than anything they have encountered so far in a group where Japan, Ivory Coast, and even the usually disciplined Greeks, have been unable to contain the movement and ingenuity of the Colombian front four.
The Falcao-less wonders.
For me, that front four have possibly been the highlight of the World Cup to date. And if that is the case, then Rodríguez is the candidate for outstanding player.
Rodríguez’s second half performance in the 4-1 win against Japan was Messi-esque (give it a watch if you haven’t already). Scything through the centre of the Japanese; creating two for Jackson Martínez and scoring a sensational individual goal himself. He is now Colombia’s highest goal scorer in World Cup history, with three (which probably says more about Colombia’s World Cup history).
Little surprise then that Monaco laid out so much money to sign him last summer. Also, little surprise that the equally-impressive Cuadrado is top of Barcelona’s summer wish list (Brendan, sign him up).
There does remain a Falcao-shaped hole in this team, though. Teo Gutíerrez, for all his willingness and running in the first two games, doesn’t have quite the same presence as the Monaco forward, and wasted a few chances. He is perhaps better suited to the role of second-striker, which he occupied during the qualifiers when Falcao was available.
Martínez – who played and scored a brace against Japan – or Carlos Bacca – if he can regain fitness – could be the answer.
Colombia actually had less possession against each of their group stage opponents, despite winning each match fairly comfortably. They didn’t look entirely comfortable under sustained pressure in the second half against Ivory Coast, and the defence could be a concern against better opposition. That said, they have been devastating on the counter attack and look capable of outscoring anyone.
Pekerman has been talking up the importance of the group over the individual when speaking to the press; and this is undoubtedly a team, and a squad, built on those principles.
Although, Pekerman did show his soft side in giving reserve ‘keeper, Faryd Mondragon the last 10 minutes against Japan with the game already won. In doing so 43-year-old Mondragon became the oldest player to appear in a World Cup finals.
Armero, Guarín, the evergreen Mario Yepes. They have all impressed. They have all played their part. And, with James and Johnny around, this Colombia team can continue to make World Cup history in Brazil.