The opening match of Group C sees Colombia take Euro 2004 champions Greece in a clash of styles and culture that makes the World Cup so special.
One of the biggest absentees from the World Cup due to injury is Radamel Falcao and with his link-up not matching his impressive finishing, Colombia will hope for a similar to Atletico Madrid this season.
Colombia do have other attacking options in their ranks, most notably is James Rodriguez – others include Porto’s Jackson Martinez and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado who was linked to Manchester United a few months ago – and the Monaco forward has the ability to frighten defences with fast dribbling and unpredictability. Normally played through the middle for Monaco, Rodriguez will look to come inside often for Colombia – which also allows Pablo Armero to bomb forward from full back – and 9 goals and 12 assists (8 assists from AMC) shows he can break down a strong Greece defence.
The defensive style that led to their Euro triumph a decade ago has remained a major part of Greece’s play in the years that followed. This will be present in their World Cup campaign and against Colombia – who are likely to be the toughest team in Group C – they will need to be at their defensive best.
The solid foundation that Greece pride themselves has the added protection of the Kayserispor holding midfielder Alexandros Tziolis to combat Colombia’s dangerous wingers. Tziolos will focus purely on defensive duties and provide protection to a defensive line, which includes Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos, will have to awry of the dangers James Rodriguez can cause cutting inside from the wing. The disciplined manner of his play, Tziolis only received 2 yellow cards in his 6 month stint in Turkey alongside a passing accuracy of 88%, will be key for Greece.
Premier League Watch
Colombia only have one Premier League player in their squad and you would be forgiven if it skipped you by – Pablo Armero, who joined West Ham in January, played only 5 games for the Hammers and saw him behind George McCarthy in the pecking order. Before joining West Ham though, Armero was seen in the Champions League for Napoli, including a part in the 2-0 victory over Arsenal in December.
Greece’s squad includes relegated duo Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Mitroglou, with the latter expected to start upfront for the European side despite his disappointing spell in the Premier League which saw him feature in a number of matches. A former Premier League player is the internationally experienced Giorgos Samaras whose reliability to work his socks off on the wing in each match – important for Greece’s need to perform perfectly as a team unit – will see him start on the left.
- In the combined 28 matches played between both teams only 10 have seen both teams score – Colombia: 6 out of 16, and Greece: 4 out of 12.
- Falcao was Colombia’s top scorer in qualifying with 9 goals, scoring a third of the South American side’s goals.
- Greece kept 8 clean sheets in 10 World Cup qualifying matches showing their strength in that area.
The South American are likely to have an advantage over their counterparts due to the climate in which some of the games are played and this game will add fire to that claim. Colombia’s pace and movement will help them open their tournament with 3 points.