Colombia begin their 2019 Copa America with a tough opening fixture against Lionel Messi-led Argentina at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador on Sunday. Los Cafeteros lost out to eventual champions Chile in the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario in 2016 and were eliminated in the group stages of the 2015 Copa America.
Colombia arrive in Brazil with perhaps the strongest squad they have ever sent out in a major tournament, comparable to the Ivan Cordoba and Agustin Delgado-lead Copa winning side of 2001. The squad boasts of youthful vigour in the form of 24-year-old Club America striker Roger Martinez and Tottenham Hotspur's 23-year-old centre-back Davinson Sanchez while 33-year-old captain Radamel Falcao and AC Milan veteran 32-year-old centre-back Christian Zapata add valuable experience.
Manager Carlos Queiroz has a fully fit squad to choose from and many selection dilemmas. There is fierce competition for the holding midfielder position with the more experienced Zenit midfielder Wilmar Barrios likely to start despite Flamengo's Gustavo Cuellar starting Colombia's final preparatory friendly before the Copa, a 3-0 win over Peru
Colombia captain and record goalscorer Radamel Falcao is under tremendous pressure for Atalanta's exciting young striker Duvan Zapata, after the youngster had a terrific season in the Serie A, scoring an astonishing 23 goals to finish as the second top scorer in the league. The veteran is however, expected to retain his starting spot with Zapata set to come off the bench if need be.
Manager Carlos Queiroz has preferred a 4-3-3 system with Juventus' Juan Cuadrado behind team talisman James Rodriguez on the right wing while Mateus Uribe and Luis Muriel provide the width on the left.
Colombia boast a very young centre-back pairing of Everton and ex-Barcelon star Yerry Mina (24) and Tottenham Hotspur's exciting prospect Davinson Sanchez (23). La Tricolor have two pacy wingbacks in Atletico Madrid's Santiago Arias and Leon's William Tesillo, capable of putting in inviting crosses into the box for the deadly Falcao to latch onto.
Colombia: David Ospina, Santiago Arias, Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina, William Tesillo, Wilmar Barrios, Juan Cuadrado, Mateus Uribe, Luis Muriel, James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao
Standing at No.14 as per the latest FIFA Rankings, Colombia are the 4th highest ranked side coming into the Copa America after Brazil (3), Uruguay (6) and Argentina (11) and are even ahead of defending Copa champions Chile (15).They had a great set of results in the preparatory friendlies in the build-up to the Copa, registering 3-0 wins over both Panama and Peru.
Form (Since World Cup 2018): WDWWWLWW (8 games-6 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss)
All stats are from Soccerway.com
#1 James Rodriguez
Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez has a point to prove in the Copa Ameria, after Bayern Munich refused to excercise an option to permanently sign the 27-year-old at the end of a loan deal from Real Madrid.
With speculation brewing over his future, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner will want to silence his critcs and raise his stock as he vies to sign for a top-draw European Club. His former boss at Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti is pegged as the favorite to land the creative Colombians' talents for his current club SSC Napoli.
#2 Radamel Falcao
Colombia's record goalscorer and captain Radamel Falcao finds himself in an unfamiliar situation - that of his starting spot for the national side coming under serious threat for the first time in his career. The 33-year-old has not had the best club season, having managed only 16 goals and 2 assists for AS Monaco across all competitions.
His challenger, Atalanta's Duvan Zapata in contrast, has managed 28 goals and 7 assists in all competitions. With Carlos Queiroz likely to keep his faith with Falcao and retain him in the starting XI, it will be upto the veteran El Tigre to show that there is still bite left in the ageing tiger and be the souce of Colombia's goals.Published 14 Jun 2019, 12:18 IST