Colombia have been one of the surprise packages of the tournament so far. Prior to the World Cup there was a sense of worry surrounding the Colombian campaign. Radamel Falcao, their leading goal scorer in qualifying and talismanic spearhead of the Colombian attack, was ruled out of the competition with injury. Critics suggested that they would struggle to compete without him. Moreover, many people questioned whether captain Mario Yepes was over the hill, at the age of 38, and wondered if he would prove to be a liability at the back. However, these fears have been set to one side; the Colombians now find themselves in the quarter-finals of the tournament and people are beginning to sit up and take notice.
Colombia are blessed with arguably the paciest frontline of all the sides competing for World Cup glory. Juan Cuadrado has been absolutely outstanding and is already being linked with a move to one of Europe’s powerhouses. James Rodriguez, following his performance against Uruguay, is being heralded as the player of the tournament thus far, is the top scorer in the competition and has scored one of the truly great World Cup goals.
The most surprising feature of the Colombians is their sturdy defence. Yepes, who was considered to be a potential weak link given his age and lack of pace, has been one of the best defenders in Brazil. He leads from the back through his bravery and unmatched commitment to the cause. But he is not alone in possessing these attributes; the whole of this side really plays for one another. Not only are they wholly devoted to achieving victory, but every goal is celebrated in unison with a fun dance routine that not only demonstrates the high morale amongst the squad but also that this is a side who loves playing football and is enjoying every minute at the World Cup.
But can they win the tournament? Whilst I would be delighted for them to do so, it still seems a rather large stretch of the imagination. There can be no denying the fact that Colombia, whilst passing every test that they have faced with flying colours, are yet to meet top class opposition. They were drawn in what turned out to be a very weak group and their last 16 opponents, Uruguay, were missing their star man and are an average side without him. Sterner tests lie ahead and Colombia will require a tremendous effort to even reach the semi-finals, as a match with the hosts is imminent.
Brazil may not have hit the heights that they were expected to so far this summer but they are still the greatest test Colombia will have encountered to date. They have, however, made numerous defensive errors and the Colombians have the offensive weapons to hit Brazil where it hurts. Los Cafeteros (the coffee growers) may struggle to win the whole tournament but they could be the villains of the piece and knock out the hosts.