Columbia can upset Brazil

After watching the first two Round-of-16 matches yesterday morning (Singapore time), Colombia have no reason to fear Brazil in the quarter-finals.

They had too much energy and got about the pitch too quickly for Uruguay.

Looking at how Brazil, with all the pressure of performing at home, struggled against Chile and scrapped through on penalties, you have to rate Colombia's chances of an upset.

Without Luis Suarez, Uruguay lacked a cutting edge up front.

Edinson Cavani worked so hard for the team but there wasn't much end product except for one shot and another header.

Obviously, he works better with Suarez than with Diego Forlan and, in this match, he was out on the wing an awful lot and did not get into the box enough.

Whereas Uruguay with Suarez, Brazil with Neymar and Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo look very much like a one-man team, Colombia have quality throughout their ranks.

And that is even without Falcao.

David Ospina has to be the goalkeeper of the tournament for me.

Unlike the others, he is so assured and never flaps at crosses.

He's a good shot-stopper who catches well and, in doing so, gives his team-mates a lot of confidence.

Juan Camilo Zuniga and Pablo Armero are not just mindless overlapping fullbacks, they are equally adept in attack and defence, while Abel Aguilar and Carlos Sanchez control the central midfield so well.

And James Rodriguez is a special player with an eye for spectacular goals. Look at how he loses Diego Lugano for the second goal.

He may lack the pace to beat players one-on-one like Neymar or Lionel Messi, but his positioning and all-round technique are superb, and he has scored with both feet as well as his head.

With Luiz Gustavo suspended, Brazil could ask Paulinho or Ramires to man-mark him, but Rodriguez also has the impressive Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez to support him or to feed off him, and the sluggish Brazil defence will have their hands full.

It is already a tremendous achievement for Colombia to reach the last eight, considering they are playing in their first World Cup since 1998, and they have won just three games in four previous World Cups.

The big question is: Can they handle the occasion and Neymar, especially with skipper and centre back Mario Yepes already 38? Momentum is on their side. They finished just two points behind Argentina in the Conmebol qualifiers and are unbeaten in their last 11 games, having lost just three matches in 28 games since 2012.

They now have four victories on the trot in Brazil and must continue to play with pace and without fear or pressure.

If they manage that against the Selecao, who seemed weighed down by expectations, Colombia could well move on to the semi-finals at the expense of Brazil.

This article was first published on June 30, 2014. 
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