After the bite and the ban, it’s now back to the pitch. Uruguay and Colombia have occupied dark horse positions for a year in the run up towards this tournament – move aside, Belgium – and the two’s meeting in Rio De Janiero looks likely to produce a solid contender for the tournament regardless of the result.
Colombia, one of our four pre tournament choices, are rated as the odds on favourites to win within 90 minutes, a price based on two factors; Their impressive 9 point haul during the group stages and the absence of Luis Suarez for Uruguay, who have been the centre of all things controversy this week.
Colombia impressed in cutting apart the stoic Greeks in the first game and especially when trashing Japan having made no less than eight changes, an impressive effort given the shakeup made by Jose Penkerman.
On the face of things this is likely to be a stiffer defensive test for them, but there are reasons not to go overboard about Uruguay’s form so far and their defence. They were getting marginally the worst of their crunch clash against Italy before Claudio Marchisio’s red card in a game where they may have benefited from Italy’s sweltering defeat to Costa Rica in Recife at 1pm, and the same conditions may have been a factor when they faced England after Manaus. Both sides played well below their potential in the attacking sense against Uruguay, with England lacking cohesion in midfield and a potential final product, while Italy were constrained all game in a match where they aimed for a draw from early on.
Colombia are a far more potent threat. The withdrawal of Radamel Falcao looked to have been a huge blow but they have found themselves to contain immense strength in depth from all areas in an attacking sense.
James Rodriguez has been one of the standout players of the tournament, his fine showing against Japan topped off with one of the goals of the cup so far, and his movement and skill should provide Diego Godin with his most serious test so far – or his most serious test since Joel Campbell. He has linked up excellently with Teofilio Guiterez through the centres but the real sharp end of Colombia’s attack comes out wide with Victor Ibarbo and Juan Cudarado, who has been exceptionally sharp on the flanks so far.
From Deep, Pablo Amero and Camillo Zuniga have also stretched the game from deep and those same named are a massive threat towards Uruguay. Italy were lacklustre and smothered but England got into good positions on a regular basis before the final ball let them down and Costa Rica tore through them after going 1 goal down in the second half when even Diego Godin looked vulnerable to pace and it remains to be seen how Maxi Peiera deals with Victor Ibarbo and Pablo Amero as a double and the same question will be asked of Martin Caceres with Zuniga and Cudrado.
The benefit for Uruguay is that Colombia have the same issue through the centre in terms of pace as Christian Zapata and Mario Yepes have looked rickety at the back and questions can most definitely be asked of the wingbacks. However they have not looked particularly incisive in their games so far, and are robbed of the man who has provided most of their creative spark in Suarez. His finishing put away England and his movement has also bought the best out of Edison Cavani, the two combining for their first against England, and Stuani and Rodriguez are also missing a target.
That said, with the media battering them form all angles this week, the siege mentality is likely to be sky high and anything could be coming from total implosion without their key man to a renewed sense of drive that frustrates a Colombia who have never been to the quarter finals. I’ll let my ante post stakes ride, although for those who can’t resist, the one goal winning margin.
To reach quarter final
2 pts Colombia (13/10 general)