Colombia expert Juan Arango gets us up to speed on Los Cafeteros as they open their World Cup campaign against Greece , for whom Chris Paraskevas is on hand to give us the lowdown on.
Juan Arango on Colombia: Colombia come in to the World Cup with a great deal of expectation but also some worries as four players from the qualifying stage will be missing from the squad when they play in Brazil. The losses of Luis Amaranto Perea, Edwin Valencia, Aldo Leao Ramírez and Radamel Falcao Garcia were huge blows to Colombia. Still the national team was able to show a great deal of depth in certain positions yet there are question marks that the Colombian press have in several sectors of the pitch.
Chris Paraskevas on Greece: The big question is: who will start up front for Greece? The battle is between Theofanis Gekas and Fulham striker Kostas Mitroglou and coach Fernando Santos will leave his decision until the last possible moment. Beyond that, Panagiotis Kone will get the nod in midfield ahead of captain Giorgos Karagounis, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos has recovered from injury and will start at centre-back. Exciting winger Ioannis Fetfatzidis will need to be content with a place on the bench.
Juan Arango on Colombia: The team earned a comfortable win in their final pre-tournament friendly against Jordan in Buenos Aires, but before that they drew three straight matches against the Netherlands, Tunisia and Senegal.
Chris Paraskevas on Greece: Greece’s final friendly ahead of the tournament was against Bolivia. It was an atypical Greek performance: they pressed high up the pitch and were extremely proactive. The two goals they scored ended a worrying goal drought, after their first two friendlies ended in stalemates against Portugal and Nigeria. Santos’ men conceded just four goals in ten games in their qualifying group, with three goals conceded in one defeat away to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Goalscoring remains a problem, though the four they put past Romania in their two-legged play-off shows they have the ability to find the back of the net.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY:
Colombia’s Jose Pekerman: Pekerman doesn’t tend to address the media that often, when he does he is one that makes extended points. He has had little to respond about regarding what is going off the pitch. The Argentine coach talked about the collective spirit of the squad after the loss of Falcao and then Ramírez, but still mentioned that the group remained strong.
Greece’s Fernando Santos: "It was a mediocre performance from our perspective. From a tactical standpoint, we let our opponent have too much possession of the ball." – Santos after the Bolivia win.
Juan Arango on Colombia: Right now Colombia’s probable lineup will not include Fredy Guarín (suspension). This first lineup should be most likely set in stone after having arrived last weekend at their training ground in Cotía. There have been significant changes, although Pekerman would not give out the confirmed lineup as of the end of their final session on Friday. The most probable lineup will Pekerman pick: Ospina, Armero, Valdés, Yepes, Zúñiga; Aguilar, Sánchez, Cuadrado, Rodríguez; Bacca, Gutiérrez. Offensively, I can see the play of James Rodríguez being the key to opening Greece’s lock. It will all depend on the Monaco man being able to get the ball cleanly and looking to take up some of the marks in the middle and being intelligent in distribution.
Chris Paraskevas on Greece: Georgios Samaras. When Samaras is on form, he is a real handful for even top class defenders and lifts his teammates. However, he is frustratingly inconsistent and can be a liability when his head isn’t in the game. If he can hold the ball up to the best of his abilities and be the focal point for the Greek attack, they will be a team transformed.
Juan Arango on Colombia: 5.40 on Carlos Bacca scoring the first goal. The Sevilla forward is coming off one of the best seasons of his professional career. Despite not seeing a great deal of action against Jordan, Bacca showed some flashes against Senegal and will be the primary offensive threat up top.
Chris Paraskevas on Greece: Dimitris Salpingidis to score for Greece at 6.25. It’s not a bad bet given he’s consistently scored in major games for Greece (he netted at Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup). He’s a player who likes to take gambles in the box and arguably is one of his team’s biggest goalscoring threats.
Juan Arango: Colombia should win a tight encounter 2-1 8.50
Chris Paraskevas: Colombia 1 Greece 1 7.00
Bet now on Colombia v Greece