Real Madrid attacker James Rodriguez insists Colombia are not thinking about revenge as they prepare to tackle Brazil at the Copa America on Wednesday in a replay of last year’s bruising World Cup quarter-final battle. The Colombian went onto praise Neymar, his FC Barcelona counterpart for his performance with Brazil.
The Real Madrid playmaker was subjected to a series of brutal tackles by the Brazilians last year, when the Colombians were beaten 2-1 in a physical contest scarred by a whopping 54 fouls.
Brazil’s leading part in creating a rough-house climate on the pitch ultimately cost the World Cup hosts dearly, with FC Barcelona playmaker Neymar suffering a tournament-ending injury after a rugged challenge from Juan Camilo Zuniga.
Fast-forward a year, and the two sides will meet once more on Wednesday in Santiago in a Group C game that Colombia cannot afford to lose following their shock 1-0 defeat to Venezuela on Sunday.
“The loss to Venezuela brought us down to earth a bit,” Rodriguez told journalists. “Now we know that only a win will do against Brazil.”
“We tried to play against Venezuela the way we played in the World Cup last year. It didn’t work. It was a bad, bad, afternoon. But the most important thing now is to think about Brazil.
“In football today, you can win, but you can also have these things happen, like our loss to Venezuela. But at hard times like this, you see the truly great teams.”
Rodriguez is adamant that there will be no repeat of the World Cup foul-fest on Wednesday, saying Colombia had no axe to grind.
“It’s not about revenge,” Rodriguez said. “This is going to be a more open game because of Brazil’s style of play, but they also have to be in very good form to beat us.
“I know they’re always going to be right there marking me and the only thing I have to do is be patient and play my football, look for spaces to create play without getting desperate.”
Rodriguez meanwhile enthused about the form of FC Barcelona star Neymar, who single-handedly inspired his team to a shaky 2-1 victory over Peru in their opening game, scoring once and creating another.
“He’s playing at an incredible level,” Rodriguez said of the FC Barcelona star.
Brazil head into Wednesday’s game anxious to prove they are more than just a one-man band.
One Brazilian newspaper summed up the Selecao’s performance on Sunday as “Neymar and 10 others”, reflecting concern over an uninspired victory that was only sealed with a last-gasp winner from Douglas Costa with an assist by the FC Barcelona man.
While coach Dunga hailed the matchwinning contribution of Neymar, he also insisted Brazil’s win over Peru was a collective effort.
“Neymar was decisive, but other players were decisive as well – including Dani Alves, Miranda, Douglas Costa,” Dunga said. “There were contributions from the whole team.”
Brazil’s win over Peru was their 11th consecutive victory since the 2014 World Cup, when they were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals before losing the third-place play-off to the Netherlands 3-0.