With the group games now firmly behind us, the attention turns to the knockout rounds and winners of Group C, Colombia, face the runners-up of Group D, Uruguay.
Over the course of the World Cup many fans have experienced new teams and players, and one of those is Colombia whose performances in all 3 group matches have seen them gain a legion of fans across the country. Winning their group with 9 points and 9 goals, the central piece to the Colombia success in the early stages has been James Rodriguez – who took his tally up to 3 goals for the tournament with spectacular skill against Japan on Tuesday night. Often seen buzzing around the pitch, Rodriguez has been both a goal scorer and provider for the South American side with 2 assists to his name and creating 6 chances.
With Colombia being a major threat on the break and running at frightened defences, the intelligent play by Rodriguez has helped opened up space for his team-mates or himself – the Monaco player has made 10 successful dribbles and managed to have 11 shots throughout the World Cup. Looking likely to be the winner of the Young Player of the Tournament already, Rodriguez is a match-winner and a team who was taken apart by the directness and pace of Joel Campbell against Costa Rica should fear the Colombian key man.
The majority of the news concerning Uruguay since their 1-0 victory over Italy has been on the Suarez incident and Thursday saw the confirmation that the troubled striker will definitely miss the rest of the tournament. On a football basis, this is a massive loss to Uruguay, who without him in the first match against Costa Rica looked a poor team. The South Americans do have another world class striker in their ranks in the form of Cavani, but his performances for Uruguay have never really matched his club level on a consistent basis. With the expectation that Colombia will be the ones dominating possession in the attacking areas, Uruguay will need their goal scorer in the Italy match, Diego Godin, to continue his impressive performances in the big matches with club and country this season.
A La Liga winner with Atletico Madrid, Godin scored against Barcelona on the final day to confirm their status as champions and then scored a week later in the Champions League final. Uruguay will be hoping he will be lauded for a brilliant defensive after the match on Saturday. Godin has averaged 2.3 tackles per game during the World Cup and his physical presence in the air has seen him make 19 clearances throughout the tournament so far. If the 28 year old can produce another big performance in a big game, then Uruguay could have a chance of progressing further.
- The last meeting between the pair in qualifying for the World Cup saw Uruguay run out 2-0 victors, while the tie in Colombia ended 4-0 to the home side.
- Colombia’s home win against Uruguay was their only victory in the last 10 years and 8 meetings.
- The appearance of Colombia’s back-up goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon saw him become the oldest ever player to feature at the World Cup.
- With the path of the knockout stages sorted, 4 South American teams will fight for 1 semi-final spot (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay).
Their qualification past the group stage was a shock to many after their limp opening performance and a Suarez-less side could struggle against an in-form Colombia who could break through the Uruguayan defence through raw pace and skill.