The fifth match of the 2014 World Cup will entertain a Group C clash between Colombia and Greece on Saturday, June 14. It has been said that Group C, which includes Japan and the Ivory Coast as well, is up for grabs because there is not a very well known, power name in the group. However, that can also make it more enjoyable to watch because each nation knows it could step out of the group with a great position.
Fernando Santos has his Greek team in prime Greek form right now. Greece will lock down on the defensive end, like they have for years. The Greeks only surrendered four goals in ten World Cup qualifying matches, and three of those four came in one game. This is the strategy Greece used to win Euro 2004, and it is the one they still use this World Cup. It will be interesting to see how soon, if at all, the Colombians get frustrated with their lack of opportunities.
Colombia, on the other hand, comes in ready to shoot. “Los Cafeteros” scored 18 times in qualifying and come in to the World Cup as the runner-up in the South American Zone, CONMEBOL, qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998. Coach Jose Pekerman does have a few headaches to calm down in the mean time, most notably the loss of Radamel Falcao, the leading scorer for Colombia throughout qualifying. Falcao did not make the team after he did not make the necessary progress from torn knee ligaments in time for the games.
Colombia comes to Brazil with injuries, question marks, and great hope of advancing out of a mediocre group. Three points in their first game would go a long way, but what must happen for Colombia to gain those three points?
1. Win the Midfield
With the loss of Falcao, the two best players for Colombia are James Rodriguez and Pablo Armero, both center midfielders. Rodriguez will play more of a holding role, but that could change against Greece, if Greece is not attacking much. He has the ability to place the ball anywhere on the pitch and create opportunities for his teammates.
Armero plays in front of Rodriguez, generally speaking, but look for him to be most dangerous when he gets out on the wings and attacks with his diagonal runs and crossing from the flanks. His role is also a question mark now, as he used to sit nicely right between Rodriguez and Falcao, but he could be called on to attack more now with the loss of Falcao. In either case, if these two midfielders do their jobs and make their presence felt on the field, Colombia should be just fine.
2. Contain Kostas Mitroglou
Greece may have the best defense in the World Cup, but that really hurts their offense. Kostas Mitroglou is the target of Greece. He is the lone man thrown at the top to receive clearances from the rest of the team playing defense. He is not particularly fast, but he is deceptively skilled on counter attacks. Colombia lost a starter at center back, Luis Perea, to a upper leg injury; which left the team even more vulnerable in the middle defense than it already was. The fill-ins need to be ready to step up and hold off Mitroglou, as well as three or four big counter attacks.
3. Attack, Attack, Attack
Greece is going to lock down on defense, putting ten guys behind the ball. Colombia needs to get similar numbers forward and step on the gas pedal from the very beginning. They need to get help from all players and attack from all angles, mixing in aerial crosses with short, crisp passes through the barricade Greece sets up.
I think Colombia can score early, and break the game open. After one goal, either Greece stays the same and Rodriguez can control the game while the “Hellas” sit back and protect the goal. Or Greece could look to attack, leaving the back more susceptible to a counter attack on their own goal, in which Colombia would make them pay. It is hard to defend for 90 minutes with very little offensive fire power, which is why I think Colombia will break through at some point and find the net, taking three points with them.