World Cup Round of 16 preview: Colombia v Uruguay

Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro plays host to South American rivals Colombia and Uruguay in the Round of 16 match on Sunday, June 29, from 6am (AEST).

The clash has attracted worldwide attention, sadly mostly for the wrong reasons.  While most football fans have the name Luis Suarez on their lips (or is it the other way around?), we should be immersed in the playing style of Jose Pekerman’s Colombian squad who are the in-form side of the tournament.  Nine goals in three matches see the Colombians as the highest scoring team in Brazil, and the team enrapturing neutral fans from across the globe.

Rocked by the pre-tournament injury to star Radamel Falcao, not many gave the Colombians a chance. Now facing a realistic quarter-final berth and beyond the adage of right place, right time springs to mind for this Colombian team.

A late Diego Godin header helped Uruguay see off European giants Italy and reach the knock out phase of the tournament and create the first CONMEBOL showdown of 2014.

The big issue

The suspension of Luis Suarez has disrupted the Uruguayan team and will have a profound unsettling impact on the squad.  Not only has the incident affected the team on the pitch, but every moment of every public appearance for the team has been turned into questions about the troubled football genius.  Issues such as this will impact the mental preparation for the squad, when they should be preparing for their biggest match in four years. 

Meanwhile, the Colombian camp knowing full well the effect this will have on the Uruguay team continues to train without incident and concentrate on reaching the quarter-finals at a World cup for the first time.

The game breaker

James Rodriguez, 22, has announced himself in Brazil, scoring in every match thus far.  Three goals and two assists sees Rodriguez rise to one of the most dangerous players remaining, along with Lionel Messi, Thomas Mueller and Neymar - some exclusive company.  Uruguay has only conceded four goals to date and will need to shut Rodriguez down, from not only scoring, but being the most creative outlet Colombia have to goal.

Prediction: Colombia 2 – 0 Uruguay

If Uruguay can close Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez down for long periods of time it will give them every chance of causing an upset.  If Colombia cannot find a goal in the first 60 minutes, nerves will start to creep into the psyche of the players as well as every one of the 47 million Colombians back home.  Uruguay is a well organised defensive unit and must maintain this pressure.  The youthful exuberance of Colombia should be too much for Uruguay (although knockout football is a different beast) and they should win the match to continue their World Cup run.