Rod to catch Uruguay cold
Ben Coley previews tonight's second last-16 game at the World Cup, with Colombia expected to advance.
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Colombia are a shade of odds-against to beat Uruguay and advance to the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history. It's a price which reflects both the impressive nature of their progress so far and the fact that Uruguay are without Luis Suarez, who begins a four-month ban for yet again biting an opponent. Views on that are best kept for other pages, but the absence of Suarez is without question a key factor as we approach this game. Colombia offer evidence of what can be achieved when a perceived standout player is absent. While it's rare - perhaps increasingly so - for a team to be better off without a world-class focal point, Los Cafeteros have proved exactly that so far, brought closer by a collective need to cover for the loss through injury. of Radamel Falcao. James Rodriguez is one of just two players to have found the net in all three group games and along with Juan Cuardrado has helped orchestrate three performances of equal quality, notwithstanding the odd lapse in concentration which has helped opponents keep within touching distance. It's that slight hint of defensive frailty which helps make a case for Uruguay, but without Suarez it's questionable how effective they can be. Diego Forlan is plainly not up to this level any more, impressive though his career has been, while Edinson Cavani doesn't strike me as the type to step up and deliver now that the nation needs him to. Of course, that phrase about a wounded animal backed into a corner may hold some relevance and Uruguay certainly feel like they've been victimised. There's even been talk of a strike which, while unlikely, helps underline the mood within the camp. Unfortunately for them, they need Suarez to help them channel this and without him I find it hard to see how they achieve a positive result. Remember, this is a team which was totally outplayed by Costa Rica when Suarez sat on the bench and while it was Diego Godin's goal which got them past Italy, it was Suarez who triggered what was one of the turnarounds of the group stage. So, it's a Colombia win for me and I'm prepared to go as far as backing them on the one-goal handicap at 3/1. It's a bet they've landed in two of their three group games and, with respect to Uruguay, without Suarez I don't see them as a much better side than Japan or Greece. Jackson Martinez is priced as Colombia's biggest attacking threat and to an extent that's understandable, but I am surprised to see James Rodriguez chalked up at 3/1 to continue his scoring run, a price which looks well worth taking. The Monaco man has been one of the stars of the tournament and he's worthy of support at this sort of price - particularly against opposition I expect to be comfortably seen off.
Verdict: Colombia 3 Uruguay 0
The last nine encounters between Colombia and Uruguay have produced 32 goals; an average of 3.6 per game.
Colombia have won as many games at this year's World Cup (3) as they did in their previous 13 games in the competition (3).
James Rodriguez has scored three goals and delivered two assists in 225 minutes at this World Cup, an average of a goal / assist every 45 minutes.
He's already been involved in more goals than any other Colombian in World Cup history (5).
Luis Suarez has missed two games at the World Cup since 2010. Both were defeats for Uruguay (Netherlands in the 2010 semi-final and Costa Rica in the 2014 group stages).