Jose Pekerman has picked his men for the World Cup. But, will the 23-man squad do Colombia and their hopes justice in Russia over the next month?

The current Colombian National Football Team has big shoes to fill. The 2014 squad achieved the nation’s best result in their history, reaching the quarter-finals, with James Rodriguez leading the way in what was a breakout tournament for the playmaker.

Colombia, like Argentina, endured a difficult qualification in the CONMEBOL region, somehow eking through, with the draw against Peru on the final matchday securing their place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The road to the World Cup has been rather tough, but it will only inspire them to a better performance in Russia.

Group and Fixtures

Colombia have been placed alongside Senegal, Poland and Japan in Group H, which is perhaps, the most evened-out group at the 2018 World Cup. Los Cafeteros start their campaign against Japan before playing the highest-ranked nation of the group, Poland.

Jose Pekerman’s men then round out their group stage campaign against Senegal, a game that could prove to be a decider as to the fate of Colombia and their chances of making it past the group.

The Squad

Jose Pekerman has an ageing but capable squad at his disposal. The manager has managed to announce his final 23-man squad from the preliminary squad.

Goalkeepers: David Ospina, Camilo Vargas, Jose Fernando Cuadrado

Defenders: Cristian Zapata, Oscar Murillo, Santiago Arias, Yerry Mina, Johan Mojica, Farid Diaz, Davinson Sanchez

Midfielders: Wilmar Barrios, Carlos Sanchez, Abel Aguilar, James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Mateus Uribe, Jefferson Lerma, Juan Quintero

Forwards: Carlos Bacca, Radamel Falcao, Luis Muriel, Miguel Borja, Jose Izquierdo

Can James Rodriguez rise to the occasion again? (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Can James Rodriguez rise to the occasion again? (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Colombia has the majority of their squad from the 2014 edition present in the 23-man squad for the World Cup. Pekerman though, chose not to include Teofilo Gutierrez, a stalwart for Colombia, for Russia 2018. The veteran is now likely to head towards calling time on his international career.

There were other surprise exclusions as well, with the likes of Eder Alvarez Balanta, Pablo Armero, Jeison Murillo, Edwin Cardona and Giovanni Moreno not making the cut either. The highlight would be the defensive duo of Armero and Murillo, both of whom had considerable experience at the international level and would be disappointed to not be travelling with the team to Russia.

Johan Mojica and Mateus Uribe’s place in the 23-man squad was no surprise, with the two players enjoying wonderful campaigns with their respective clubs. Even Jefferson Lerma and Jose Izquierdo’s inclusions were justified based on their form and level of displays at club level.

But, what surprised many was the call-up for Miguel Borja, who made the cut ahead of Teofilo Gutierrez and Duvan Zapata, despite not boasting decent numbers with Palmeiro.

The Manager

Colombia's rise under Pekerman has been historic. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Colombia’s rise under Pekerman has been historic. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Jose Pekerman has always been a quintessential national team coach, excelling on the international scene while struggling at the club level. Pekerman’s success at the international level started with the Argentina Under-20 side, wherein he was selected to lead the team despite an uninspiring resume.

Pekerman led the side to three FIFA World Youth Championships and two South American Youth Championships. After a few other posts, he assumed the managerial post of the Argentina National Team. Pekerman led Argentina to a runners-up finish at the Confederations Cup in 2005 and the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup, wherein they lost on penalties to Germany.

The manager was appointed by Colombia in 2012 and has since then led the nation’s charge towards the top echelons of world football. Earning the name ‘The Tinkerman’ for his knack of changing formations and tactics based on the opposition, he masterminded Colombia to their best ever finish at the World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals in the 2014 edition before bowing out to the hosts Brazil.

Pekerman has continued to swap formations at will, but has stayed true to four at the back. 4-2-3-1 had been the most favoured formation for the manager in the CONMEBOL qualifiers and the recently played friendlies. The manager is likely to opt for the formation, which will depend upon the opposition.

Davinson Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, David Ospina and James Rodriguez are the assured starters and the core of the squad, with the quartet unlikely to be rotated at all. Santiago Arias is also a certainty on the right side of the defence, with the player the only recognised option available.

Johan Mojica is likely to have done enough at the club level to earn a start on the left side of the defence. One of the major question marks would be as to who will be Davinson Sanchez’s partner in central defence, with the fight likely to come down to Yerry Mina and Cristian Zapata.

Wilmar Barrios and Carlos Sanchez should sit at the base of the 4-2-3-1, with James Rodriguez the designated number 10. Radamel Falcao will lead the attack but the two wing spots are up for grabs. Judging by the friendlies, Juan Cuadrado should be one of the two, with the winger likely to be deployed on the right.

Jose Izquierdo has had a decent season with Brighton & Hove Albion in England and could be chosen by Pekerman for the left side of the attack.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Arias, Davinson Sanchez, Zapata, Mojica; Barrios, Carlos Sanchez; Cuadrado, James Rodriguez, Izquierdo; Falcao

THT Verdict

Colombia are the favourites to go through from Group H and the presence of ‘The Tinkerman’ on the sidelines will aid their journey in Russia. They are likely to have a tough time against the likes of Senegal and Poland. We tip Colombia to go through with 5 points in Group H.

A repeat of the 2014 World Cup would be cherry on the top for Colombia, but one that looks highly unlikely. We expect the nation to bow out in the Round of 16.

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