Colombia and Greece will begin their World Cup campaigns Saturday at 12:00 EST in Belo Horizonte. The opening match is sure to be a tightly contested affair with plenty of first match jitters for both sides. Colombia comes into the match ranked 8th in the FIFA World Rankings and finished a mere 2 points behind perennial South American power house Argentina in COMNEBOL qualifying. Greece arrives in Brazil ranked a respectable 12th according to the FIFA World Rankings. Their journey to the World Cup saw them qualify in a European playoff match against Romania 4-2 on aggregate after losing out their group with Bosnia and Herzegovina on goal differential. Greece is appearing at consecutive World Cups for the first time in history.
Projected lineup – Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes (c), Armero; Aguilar, Ramirez; Cuadrado, Gutierrez, Rodriguez; Martinez
The Colombians were dealt a huge blow in losing talismatic forward Radamel Falcao. The Monaco striker provided Los Cafeteros with 9 goals in qualification and will be sorely missed. The absence of Falcao brings added pressure to Teófilo Gutiérrez, James Rodriguez, and Jackson Martinez. The Colombians will also face the added pressure of competing in the tournament for the first time since 1998. There will sure to be many Colombian fans who will have made the relatively short trip to Brazil to support their team. A lot is expected of this Colombian team and they are seen as the favorites in an open Group C.
Projected Lineup – Karnezis; Torosidis, Sokratis, Manolas, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone, Katsouranis (c); Salpingidis, Samaras, Gekas.
Greece has always held onto their past with great pride and have refused to let it go. Which is why it should come at no surprise that the spirit of their 2004 Euro triumph is still in the squad. The Greeks will be relying on their sound teamwork along with defense to make up for their relative lack of technical skill. Kostas Katsouranis and Giorgios Karagounis are the last remnants from the 2004 squad and are seen as the leaders of the squad. However, if Greece has any ambition to make it out of the group stage they need a great tournament from these three; Georgios Samaras, Ioannis Fetfatzidis, and Konstantinos Mitroglou. Goals are often hard to come by for the Ethniki and will need these three to rise to the occasion.
It will be strength vs strength as Colombia’s offensive firepower will go to work against Greece’s fortress of an organized defense. The Greeks will rely on set pieces and counter attacks, while Colombia can be expected to push men forward and dominate possession. The outcome of the match will be determined in the midfield as it will be interesting to see how much of the possession Colombia will retain. An early goal would help relieve the pressure on the Colombians, but missing Falcao will be huge in an anticipated match like this. I expect Greece’s defense to withstand the barrage from Colombia and both teams to walk away with a point.
Colombia 0 Greece 0 FT