The second quarter final of this FIFA World Cup will see Brazil vs Colombia.
Brazil take on Colombia in Fortaleza on Friday night in a clash that pits together two sides who both won their group and came through to the quarter-finals in contrasting fashion. Colombia have arguably been the team of the tournament so far, resolute in defence, fantastic going forward and in James Rodriguez, the player of the tournament so far. Brazil on the other hand, have been thoroughly unconvincing and are only here thanks to the brilliance of Julio Cesar against Chile and Neymar, who has been their sole attacking threat throughout the tournament.
Although they are in the quarter-final and beat Chile on penalties, it isn’t all good news for Brazil as they have a couple of key injury concerns. Their main attacking threat, Neymar is battling a thigh injury and is doubtful for the game. And even if does make it, he will be less than 100% which will mean that their other attacking players in Oscar, Hulk and Fred need to step up to the plate, if the hosts are to have any chance of making it to the semi-finals. The marauding Marcelo is also struggling with injury and is likely to be replaced by Maxwell.
Another key loss is that of Luiz Gustavo, who will be suspended for the game, after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament, against Chile. The 26-year-old who plays for Wolfsburg, has arguably been his side’s best central midfielder and his absence is likely to be keenly felt. Ramires and Paulinho are Scolari’s alternatives and the coach is likely to go for the more solid Paulinho to partner fellow Premier League midfielder Fernandinho.
Expected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Alves, Silva, David Luiz, Maxwell; Fernandinho, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
Columbia on the other hand come in with a fully fit squad with no injury concerns. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see coach José Pekerman opt for an unchanged starting XI from the side that comfortably beat Uruguay 2-0. The Colombians have conceded only two goals in the tournament so far and in David Ospina, they have a keeper who is in fine form.
What has made Colombia such a joy to watch in Brazil, has been their attack. They have not only the tournament’s top scorer in James Rodriguez but also the leading assist maker in Juan Cuadrado. In Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez, they also have two strikers who have been in good goalscoring form in Brazil.
Expected Starting XI (4-4-2): Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero; Cuadrado, Sanchez, Aguilar, Rodriguez; Gutierrez, Martinez.
1. Pablo Armero vs Hulk
Although Hulk has so far had a disappointing World Cup, all of that could change if he has blinder against Colombia. To do so, he will have to get the better of the wily Pablo Armero, who has been one of the best full backs in the tournament so far. Hulk’s pace and power will be key to getting the better of the experienced Armero. If he does, then Brazil will not only have a great threat going forward but that will also blunt the full back’s rampaging forward runs.
2. James Rodriguez vs Dani Alves
If there has been one player who has taken the tournament by storm, it has to be James Rodriguez. The talented Colombian playmaker established himself amidst the pantheon of stars and has been his side’s greatest goal scoring threat in the tournament so far. If Brazil are to get anything out of this game, then Alves will have to shut down Rodriguez. But given his natural attacking tendency, that seems highly unlikely. In which case, it might well be a long night for Brazil.
Road to the Quarter-final:
vs Croatia 3-1
vs Mexico 0-0
vs Cameroon 4-1
vs Chile 1-1 (won on penalties)
vs Greece 3-0
vs Ivory Coast 2-1
vs Japan 4-0
vs Uruguay 2-0
Given both side’s current form, there can only be one winner. Colombia have arguably been the team of the tournament so far and have beaten everything thrown at them. While Brazil constitute their biggest threat so far, such is the quality of their attack that even that is unlikely to stop them. The only thing that the Brazilians have going for them is their fans, who have been nothing short of extraordinary so far. If the fans can rally behind their team, like they did against Chile, then the Brazilians might just have a shot. But I think that even the fans cannot stop Brazil from going out of the tournament, so I fancy Colombia to go through, in normal time in a highly entertaining encounter.