World Cup 2014: England’s prize may be formidable Colombia

Even without Radamel Falcao, the South Americans are turning on the style

If there were fears that Colombia would not be the same without Radamel Falcao, that they would lose too much of their power up front to compete, they might have been dispelled by the ease of their opening 3-0 win over Greece in Belo Horizonte on Saturday.

LIVE: Follow the latest news as England play Uruguay, plus Colombia v Ivory Coast and Japan v Greece

Colombia are back in action this afternoon against Ivory Coast in Brasilia. If they win they will be on the brink of confirming their passage into the last-16 and lining up a tie with a team from  Group D, which could, of course, be England.

Whoever does face Colombia in the knockout round would be misguided to think that the lack of Falcao, as well as that of Udinese forward Luis Muriel, deprives Colombia of attacking quality.

The performance orchestrated by veteran Argentine coach José Pékerman against Greece was a tactical  triumph. Lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system, Monaco’s brilliant No 10 James Rodriguez floated in between the lines, with wide players Juan Cuadrado and Victor Ibarbo running beyond him.

Rodriguez, who is known as James and could be one of the players of the tournament, set up the first goal with a diagonal ball out to Cuadrado. James burst forward, stepped over Cuadrado’s cutback and left-back Pablo Armero was there to finish the move off. Teó Gutiérrez of River Plate, chosen ahead of Porto’s Jackson Martinez to lead the line, scored the second before James scored the brilliant third from the edge of the box.

That was a near-perfect performance from Colombia but they have options too. Jackson Martinez is probably their best individual frontman, with enough pace, strength and skill to trouble most defences, and would certainly be a useful weapon if he started. He replaced Gutierrez for the last 15 minutes of their first game.

Pekerman could also turn to Carlos Bacca of Sevilla for a tough, hard-working target man, or to the athletic Adrián Ramos, who is joining Borussia Dortmund from Hertha Berlin.

Over the course of an international tournament, flexibility and options — the ability to win games in different ways — are more important than having a settled side.

Colombia might not have the strongest first XI but they have different ways to approach games and a manager not afraid to use them.

Pekerman said that it was his “saddest day” as Colombian coach when he was forced to leave Falcao out of the World Cup squad. But the players he has brought to South America are still full of quality and goals, and Colombia are the likeliest winners of Group C. If England get through thier group they could have an even harder knockout game next weekend.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada