There are still high expectations for the Colombian national team despite the absence of the talismanic goalscorer, Radamel Falcao García. Despite this huge loss, there are other players that are ready to take on the challenge and step in to fill a void that many know is irreplaceable.
Colombia’s group will be a difficult challenge, but it’s still one that the team can through, and even deeper into the tournament than that. For all that to occur, there are five players that must be looked to in order for Colombia to accomplish the expectations that were placed on José Pekerman and his men as they return to the biggest sporting event on the planet after a 16-year absence.
1. Juan Cuadrado
When Juan Cuadrado arrived to the Colombian national team a few months after Pekerman took over his impact was felt rather quickly. He added another dimension to the team by offering an option down the right wing. Cuadrado’s speed as well as his attacking capabilities make him a dangerous option for Los Cafeteros and makes the others just a bit more dangerous. His efficiency as a right back or as a right wing make him a vital cog to Colombia’s attack.
2. Fredy Guarín
The central midfielders are the ones that are fairly silent in this Colombia lineup. They don’t receive as many accolades or get as many headlines as the men they nourish up top, or the criticism the players behind them are subject to. Guarín, like any of the other players that often fill this area of the pitch, is key in order to pressure as well as provide on the attack and give the outside backs a bit more freedom. More importantly, the Inter man will be looked upon as an integral part of the national team system with the absence of Aldo Leao Ramírez. The Morelia midfielder will miss out on the World Cup after suffering a Grade 1 ankle sprain that will have him out for about a month.
3. Carlos Bacca
The native of Santa Marta will be the man that will have the unenviable task of having the tag of “Falcao’s replacement”. His success at Sevilla put him over players like Jackson Martínez, Adrián Ramos and even Fredy Montero in the Colombian national team pecking order at the forward position.
What also sets Bacca apart from the other potential starters is that Bacca is the player that best associates on the pitch and is most familiar with the movements that are made by Teófilo Gutiérrez. This affiliation goes all the way back to when both were up and coming players with second division side Barranquilla FC as well as when they made the move up to Junior where both saw their talents rewarded by winning league titles during their time there.
4. Carlos Valdés
The Philadelphia Union man on loan to San Lorenzo will get the nod as Luis Amaranto Perea will be denied a chance to take part in a World Cup. This brings in a central defender who slowly came into his own upon his arrival to Argentina via a transfer that ended up being messier that initially imagined. Valdés will need to return to his MLS form – the same form that got him into the national team – in order to be a viable partner alongside Mario Yepes.
5. James Rodríguez
As much as all the media talk was about getting Falcao healthy and his impact for the national team, the man that pulls the strings and gets Falcao the freedom to not be marked is his Monaco teammate, Rodriguez. The former Porto and Banfield man has been Colombia’s key to unlocking the opposition goal. He becomes even more important with the absence of Edwin Valencia.