World Cup Round of 16 | Rio de Janeiro | Sat 28 Jun | 9pm
The new Dark Horses versus the Dark Art Artistes.
The loss of talisman Radamel Falcao to a cruciate ligament injury before these finals began was supposed to be a body blow to Colombia's hopes of fulfilling their potential in Brazil. ‘El Tigre’ plundered a Colombian-record nine goals in qualifying and a nation's hopes rested heavily on his stout shoulders. They figured they still had more than enough firepower to escape Group C, but said it would hinge on them taking something against Greece in the opening game.
Of course we now know that concern to have been a smokescreen, given the way Colombia romped through their group, taking maximum points, scoring at will and playing a brand of attacking football that has stood out even in the most attacking World Cup anyone can remember. They’ve barely noticed the Falcao-shaped hole and have now replaced the uninspiring Belgium as the dark horse of this tournament.
To make good on the promise of the opening stage, they must now beat a Uruguay who generally get the better of them – Colombia have won just one of their last eight encounters, drawing one and losing six. But this is a Uruguay deprived of their own talisman, Luis Suarez. He bit someone, you'll have heard, and has been hit with a nine-game international ban and four-month suspension from all football-related activity.
Unlike Colombia, Uruguay won't easily replace their main goalscorer and inspiration – his replacement will likely be Diego Forlan, who is older than the Diego Forlan you remember and is less effective than a 50% fit Suarez. The Uruguay response to Suarez’s supposedly unjust punishment will be to regroup, beat their manly chests and almost certainly come out fighting. Figuratively and indeed literally.
What the local media say
On the completion of a very impressive group phase, Colombians are dreaming of going far, maybe winning the whole World Cup. "Colombia won the right to dream of glory," chirped golCaracol.com. While in Uruguay, reaching the last 16 was well received. "What accolade! Gooolllll gooolllll ..... ..... Uruguayyyy .... Uruguayyyy nomáaaaa! See you all screaming. Jumping, getting excited, hugging each other. Thousands of Uruguayans Teardrop eyes." So said El Pais, when not banging on about conspiracies.
Key battle: Rodriguez vs Lodeiro/Arevalo Rios
The creative motor behind Colombia's tournament so far, the Monaco midfielder has scored in every game, assisted twice and dominated the key stats on shots, passes and ball recovery. His 3 goals and 2 assists mean he's already been involved in more goals than any other Colombian in World Cup history. Rodriguez has scored in each of his last 5 games for Colombia and his influence on the left of midfield or in the hole behind a striker in a 4-2-3-1 will need to be nullified by whoever can get close enough to kick him.
Facts and figures
- Uruguay won their first 5 World Cup games against South American teams but have lost their last 2 – against Brazil in 1970 and Argentina in 1986.
- The last 9 encounters between Colombia and Uruguay have produced 32 goals; an average of 3.6 per game, which bodes well.
- 9 of Colombia’s last 11 goals at the World Cup have been scored in the second-half.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Uruguay's luck to finally run its course: Colombia winning a fierce encounter by the odd goal. 2-1.