World Cup Preview - Group H
COLOMBIA FIFA World Ranking:
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 5
Best Place: Quarter-finals in 2014 Brazil. Possible XI: (4-2-3-1) Ospina (GK), Arias (RB), D.Sanchez (CB), Mina (CB), Mojica (LB), C. Sanchez (CDM), Barrios (CDM), Cuadrado (RW), James (CAM), Izquierdo (LW), Falcao (ST).
Jose Pekerman (ARG) 68
Now into his 6th year as Colombian national coach, Pekerman is the longest serving manager Colombia have had in their history. Argentinian born, he also took charge of his countrymen during the 2006 World Cup where the Albicelestes lost out to Germany in the quarter-finals. His success at Brazil 2014 where he took Colombia to the last eight too earned his side and team’s style of play a lot of praise. James Rodriguez was the star man then and still remains Pekerman’s most important player with new recruits this time around for the defence and midfield. Boca Junior's Frank Fabra was injured after selection and was replaced in the side by Diaz, however Girona left-back Johan Mojica will likely start and Davison Sanchez should start as centre back given his outstanding first season in the Premier League with Tottenham. In midfield there is also a new look as Aguilar will most likely give way to Lerma or Barrios in central midfield. Qualification wasn’t easy as defeats to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile were a scare but in the end they finished 4th above Peru in the play-off positions.
James Rodriguez (60 caps / 21 goals)
Following a fantastic World Cup in 2014 where he became golden boot winner, won goal of the tournament and then earned himself a transfer to Real Madrid. James is Colombia’s darling and most influential player they have had since Carlos Valderrama all those years ago. A product of the Enviago youth system he moved to Europe first with Porto , a successful stint there saw him move over to Monaco in France were he really blossomed. A creative playmaker with a pin point pass James can create from almost anywhere on the pitch such is his versatility. He spent last season on loan with Bayern Munich following a difficult season at Real Madrid in 2016/17 and has managed to play himself into their starting XI with an impressive 7 goals and 11 assists in his debut season in the Bundesliga. He will captain Colombia for his 2nd World Cup tournament.
Colombia are favourite’s to get out of this group but there are always guilty of complacency when it matters most and this team is not as experienced as the side that went to Brazil 2014, this could creep into their game. They will have Falcao at his first World Cup after missing the last one through serious injury, and the impressive Davison Sanchez and Yerry Mina (more so with Palmeiras than at Barcelona)with surely start as Pekerman’s preferred centre back pairing. Whilst both have been impressive a mistake is always around the corner and I see them getting out of the group but with England or Belgium in the next round it will be a tricky path into the quarters.
David Ospina (Arsenal), Camilo Vargas (Deportivo Cali), Jose Cuadrado (Once Caldas).
Cristian Zapata (Milan), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Farid Diaz (Olimpia) , Johan Mojica (Girona), Yerry Mina (Barcelona).
Wílmar Barrios (Boca Juniors), Carlos Sanchez (Espanyol), Jefferson Lerma (Levante), Jose Izquierdo (Brighton), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Abel Aguilar (Deportivo Cali), Mateus Uribe (America), Juan Quintero (River Plate), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus).
Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Miguel Borja (Palmeiras), Carlos Bacca (Villarreal), Luis Muriel (Sevilla).