Saturday 14th June
Kick Off- 17:00
Colombia - Ospina, Zúñiga, Yepes, Zapata, Armero, James Rodríguez, Guarín, Aguilar, Quintero, Jackson Martínez, T Gutiérrez
Greece - Karnezis, Maniatis, Papastathopoulos, Vyntra, Torosidis, Fetfatzidis, Karagounis, Katsouranis, Christodoulopoulos, Samaras, Salpingidis
It’s nearly time for the big one. The one we have all been waiting for. No, I am not talking about the England game but instead the clash of the titans that inevitably will be Colombia v Greece in Group C. The sprawling metropolis of Belo Horizonte will play host to this epic battle at 17:00 British Summer time (13:00 local) on Saturday 14th June. In a group which one should avoid like the plague in betting terms, Colombia have the obvious advantage of being a South American side playing in the notoriously ball sweating conditions that the continent provides.
Surely there’s only one place to start with Colombia at the start of this tournament. They are, sadly, Falcao-less. The talismanic AS Monaco striker has not fully recovered from a serious knee injury he picked up playing for the French side in January and so he has been left out of José Pékerman’s final squad. Despite this being a huge blow, the Colombians have an abundance of attacking talent to make up for his loss. In truth, they’ve probably been preparing themselves for this eventuality since his initial injury in January and have contingencies in place for his absence. They’d better be good.
* Colombia fan in London? Get yourself down to Ruse in Borough. These guys are our Official Colombia Supporter's Hub during the World Cup, it should be a jumping atmosphere.*
How they got here?
The Greeks finished second in their group in the European section behind first timers Bosnia-Herzegovina and faced Romania in a play-off. One interesting fact about the miserly Greek back line is that they only conceded four goals in their qualifying group in a defence far tighter than the country’s economic policies.
Colombia also finished second in their group. The only difference being that there is just the one group in the South American section which is more a league system anyway. Colombia decided to host their qualifying matches in Barranquilla which is renowned for its sauna like conditions in the hope that it would frazzle their opposition. How dastardly.
This is Colombia’s first World Cup appearance since France 1998 where they bowed out at the group stage, finishing third behind England. It’s been 16 long years but now they’re back and with some seriously talented young players but without the inspirational hair of Carlos Valderrama. Colombia’s only success at a major tournament came in 2001 in the Copa America but I am sure they are many people’s dark horses to put in a decent bid to change that. Greece qualified for South Africa in 2010 after somewhat of a hiatus but had a tournament about as nasty as a bad Moussaka, falling at the group stage.
I always like to identify National Teams’ strengths based on the amount of players who ply their trade at Europe’s top clubs (with a particular focus on the Premier League, of course). Greece boast Fulham’s truly Ancient Greek Giorgos Karagounis whom I have worshipped ever since I witnessed a belter of a free kick from him in a League Cup tie at Leicester. His namesake Samaras of Celtic and wannabe Bond villain Kostas Mitroglou make up the British based contingent in the Greek squad. Colombia have several familiar names despite Falcao’s absence. His Monaco team mate James Rodriguez is an immense prospect, Jackson Martinez plies his trade in Portugal with FC Porto while Cristian Zapata and Fredy Guarin are Milan rivals with AC and Inter respectively so there is plenty of top tier talent on show.
In terms of Colombia’s tactical approach, the loss of Falcao as the focal point of their attack may mean they are more dangerous as they will have to move the ball more quickly and creatively which in turn will tire the ageing Greek backline. The relatively young Colombian midfield will have energy and dynamism on their side but the age old partnership of Katsouranis and Karagounis brings a wealth of experience that few others can match. Greece’s main approach must involve being cautious of course and playing to their defensive strengths but if they sit too deep and wait too long, Colombia have the quality and the pace in the heat to pick them off. Salpingidis and Samaras will have to go looking for work and possession I would suggest, a tiring job in Brazil’s heat.
Right here comes that dreaded prediction. As discussed, this will be somewhat of a battle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Greece’s defence gives less away than a Tory budget while the Colombian attack is quicker into the box than a UKIP voter. On balance, I can’t help feeling that the heat and humidity may get to the older Greek players and allow the likes of Jackson Martinez, James Rodriguez, Quintero and others to gradually erode the foundations of Mount Olympus and drag these Ancient Greek Gods to their knees. I do believe this will be a pretty close one and so I am going with Colombia to win 2-1. Hopefully that keeps me in Shakira’s good books.
Where Can I Watch This?
Click here for a list of all the pubs showing Colombia v Greece up and down this fair land. Once there, just enter your location to see your nearest pubs showing it. Alternatively, as we mentioned earlier, Colombia fans in London need to get themselves down to Ruse for this one!