Colombia scouting report: assessing England's last-16 opponents

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Colombia scouting report: assessing England's last-16 opponents

Colombia Colombia scouting report: assessing England’s last-16 opponents

Juan Quintero’s set pieces and Yerry Mina’s aerial strength are threats but above all the team need James Rodríguez to be fit

Juan Quintero scores for Colombia
Juan Quintero scores for Colombia with a low-flying free-kick that caught out the Japan defensive wall. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The weaknesses

Vulnerable to an aggressive press

The biggest take-aw ay for England’s scouts from Colombia’s 1-0 win over Senegal in the final group game would have come from the first half. Playing in a 4-4-2 formation, Senegal pressed high and Colombia were forced on to the back foot; knocked from their rhythm. They like to play out from the back but when their defenders are harassed, the team can appear likewise. Colombia did not touch the ball in the Senegal penalty box during the opening half. The difference to their second group match against Poland was marked. In that game, the Poles sat off them and Colombia expressed themselves. Give this team enough rope and they will tie you in knots.

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An error in the central defenders

When Davinson Sánchez stretched into a 17th-minute tackle on the Senegal forward, Sadio Mané, Colombia were plunged into trauma. The referee, Milorad Mazic, awarded a penalty and it went to VAR. Cue a tense wait before, to Colombian relief, Mazic overturned his decision. Sánchez could be feted for a well-timed challenge. On the other hand, it is not always good to see a centre-half having to dive into a last-ditch slide tackle. Mané had found the space off Sánchez’s shoulder and the 22-year-old’s critics will say it was fresh evidence of him switching off. Sánchez’s concentration levels remain suspect. In the Japan game, it was his error when dealing with a routine ball over the top that led to the chance that caused his teammate, Carlos Sánchez, to be shown a red card. The other centre-half, Yerry Mina, brings physical presence but not pace over the first five yards. He takes a while to lengthen his stride and get up to speed. Mina was beaten with alarming ease by Mané and England will relish the opportunity to run at him.

Rodríguez’s fitness

Colombia rely on their star player James Rodríguez in creative terms but what happens if th ey have to make do without him? The scar on the Senegal win was the loss of the attacking midfielder to injury after 31 minutes and the alarm was plain in José Pekerman’s post-match address. “I am extremely concerned,” the manager said. “It is a topic that could overshadow everything.” Rodríguez had carried a calf problem into the tournament â€" it restricted him to a substitute’s cameo against Japan â€" and he felt fatigue towards the end of the Poland game. “We didn’t think it could be an injury,” Pekerman said. But the poster boy of Colombia’s run to the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals was in obvious discomfort well before he went down and could not continue. Rodríguez has played off the left here, with licence to drift inside, but without him against Senegal, the team could not control the ball and get passes to Juan Cuadrado and the striker Radamel Falcao. Colombia are a different prospect without him.

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The strengths

Quintero’s set pieces

Juan Quintero hauled Colombia back into the Japan tie with a cleverly executed free-kick. Having predicted that the defensive wall would jump, he drilled his shot underneath it to catch out the goalkeeper, Eiji Kawashima. But it has been the consistent quality of Quintero’s indirect set pieces that have been such a positive feature of Colombia’s campaign so far. The ping and curl he gets on the ball is a testament to his technique. It was from his corner that Mina headed the winner against Senegal and England will need to be alert to the defender’s towering aerial threat. Mina also scored with a header against Poland, having stayed up after a set piece. “What happened with the corner against Senegal was not a coincidence,” Pekerman said. “We worked it very well. We had the right moves to throw Senegal off balance.â €

Collective never-say-die spirit

At the end of the first half against Senegal, the Colombia players gathered in the middle of the pitch for a discussion before heading back to the dressing room together. There was plenty to talk about as they had been outplayed. But they emerged with renewed purpose, established a foothold and found a way to win. Against Japan, following the disaster of Carlos Sánchez’s third-minute dismissal, they had also rallied to get back into it although, on that occasion, the game would end in defeat. There is a steel about Pekerman’s team and there is little doubt that their excellent showing at the last World Cup has helped to harden their mentality.

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Cuadrado can blow extremely hot

The winger â€" known to English fans due to his disappointing spell at Chelsea â€" can frustrate and there is the feeling t hat he is a confidence player, sometimes stifled when things do not go his way. But when his tail is up, he can wreak havoc â€" as he demonstrated against Poland. With Quintero’s unerring distribution from the No 10 position, Colombia like to effect quick transitions and isolate Cuadrado against the left-back. His duel with Ashley Young promises to be pivotal. It should be noted that most of Colombia’s pace comes from wide areas, with Quintero a strolling presence and Carlos Sánchez not noted for his ability to break at pace. Mateus Uribe, the other deeper-lying midfielder, is a box-to-box player.

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Source: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia

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