World Cup Group C | Belo Horizonte | Sat 14 Jun | 5pm
The Colombians begin their assault on Group C.
On paper, a no brainer. Colombia should charge their way through Group C with a line-up of effective firepower, even without their injured talisman, Radamel Falcao.
The Tricolor have an embarrassment of riches in attack, boasting names as impressive as James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez and Teofilo Gutierrez. It's little wonder they qualified for the finals so easily, finishing two points behind Argentina.
Even without Falcao, Greece will have to be fearful. They looked unimpressive during their warm-up games (a 0-0 draw with Nigeria and a 2-1 win over Bolivia); the schematics of their opening match will have to rely heavily on defence if they're to progress.
But shutting out Colombia won't be easy. Nor will scoring. Fulham striker Kostas Mitroglou has been earmarked as their greatest attacking threat. If Colombian manager Jose Pekerman has studied any of his Premier League performances, however, he'll be forgiven for feeling distinctly underwhelmed.
What the local media say
"Falcao’s absence is a huge blow to Los Cafeteros, who have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1998. Falcao scored a team-high nine goals during CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying to lead Colombia to a second-place finish behind Argentina. Now, Colombia is hoping Teófilo Gutiérrez (five goals in qualifying) and James Rodríguez (three goals) can fill the huge void left by Falcao, who was optimistic he would play in the World Cup before determining he just wasn’t physically fit enough to compete against the world’s best players." - Todaycolombia.com
"Greece sought to end speculation over the successor to coach Fernando Santos by stating they will not name his successor until after the World Cup. In a move clearly designed to prevent any distractions from the team's campaign in Brazil, Greece's football federation (EPO) made an official announcement following a string of media reports in Greece claiming that an agreement was close with Italian Claudio Ranieri." - Ekathimerini.com
Key battle: James Rodriguez vs Sokratis
In the absence of Falcao, much will be expected of Monaco's Rodriguez, a player who has gathered a strong reputation for his incisive passing and an eye for goal, particularly from distance. Much will go through him during this fixture.
It will be up to Greece's defenders to remain sharp, most notably Papastathopoulos will be charged with shackling Rodriguez's aggressive running. Greece kept eight clean sheets during the qualification for these finals, more than any other European team. They will need to repeat that trick here.
Facts and figures
- Fernando Santos has only lost 3 of his 26 competitive games as Greece coach (W17 D6).
- Colombia had more shots on target than any other team in South American World Cup qualification (99).
- Greece have failed to score in 5 of their 6 games at the World Cup, scoring only against Nigeria (2-1) in 2010 with goals by Dimitris Salpingidis and Vasilis Torosidis.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Colombia to ease into the tournament with a 3-0 win.